The daily business briefing: May 3, 2019

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Harold Maass
Alex Jones in Washington
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The daily business briefing newsletter
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1.

Strong job gains help bring unemployment rate to 49-year low

The Labor Department reported Friday that the U.S. economy added 263,000 jobs in April, exceeding expectations that ranged from 190,000 to 217,000. The gains helped reduce the unemployment rate from 3.8 percent to a 49-year low of 3.6 percent. A sharp, 490,000-person drop in labor force participation also contributed to the decrease in unemployment. The average hourly earnings of American workers rose 0.2 percent, to $27.77 an hour, slightly less than expected. The government revised March's job gains to 189,000, down from an initial report of 196,000. February's gain was adjusted from 33,000 to 56,000. Employment gains firmed up in the last two months after an erratic start this year, with a huge 312,000-job increase in January followed by February's weak gains after the government shutdown. [MarketWatch, CNBC]

2.

Facebook bans 'dangerous' Alex Jones and others seen as extremists

Facebook said on Thursday it was banning several leaders it has deemed extremist and "dangerous," including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, InfoWars host Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Laura Loomer. The social network had faced intensifying pressure from civil rights groups to restrict racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and other hateful posts. Facebook said it removed accounts, fan pages, and groups associated with the banned figures after reviewing their posts and conduct offline. "We've always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology," Facebook said. "The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today." [The Washington Post]

3.

Trump's Fed pick Moore withdraws

Conservative economic commentator Stephen Moore bowed out of contention for a spot on the Federal Reserve Board after facing intense scrutiny of his past derogatory comments about women. Critics also said Moore, an ally of President Trump, was too partisan for the traditionally independent Fed. President Trump broke the news of Moore's withdrawal on Thursday. "Steve Moore, a great pro-growth economist and a truly fine person, has decided to withdraw from the Fed process," Trump tweeted. "Steve won the battle of ideas including Tax Cuts... and deregulation which have produced non-inflationary prosperity for all Americans." Moore was the second Trump pick to step aside, following former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, as Trump tries to push the Fed to lower interest rates to stimulate the economy. [Reuters]

4.

Tesla to raise $2 billion after weak quarter

Tesla announced Thursday that it planned to raise about $2 billion by offering investors about $650 million worth of new shares of stock and $1.35 billion in convertible bonds. The news came after a disappointingly weak quarter in which the electric car company, which is struggling to deliver its first mass-market vehicle, went from having $3.7 billion in the bank to just $2.2 billion. A week ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said it might be time to raise more capital. This will be the first time in two years that Tesla has turned to equity markets to raise capital. "It was kind of inevitable," said Vicki Bryan, chief executive of the research firm Bond Angle. "It was overdue." [The New York Times, Ars Technica]

5.

Drug company executives convicted over opioid sales tactics

A Boston federal jury on Thursday found John Kapoor, the billionaire founder of the pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics, and four other top executives guilty of using tactics such as bribing doctors to prescribe a pain-killing fentanyl spray. The case centered around the fentanyl-based pain medication called Subsys, a powerful narcotic used to treat cancer patients suffering intense pain. The trial exposed tactics that included a stripper-turned-sales-rep giving a physician a lap dance. Two other co-conspirators, including former CEO Michael Babich, had already pleaded guilty and testified against Kapoor. The racketeering conspiracy convictions were seen as the first in federal court against executives of an opioid manufacturing company. Prosecutors called the case a "landmark" victory in the government's fight against the opioid epidemic. [USA Today, The Associated Press]