The daily business briefing: January 13, 2020

The Labor Department replaces Obama-era "joint employer" standard, 1917 ousts Star Wars from top spot at the box office, and more

Richard Madden
(Image credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

1. Labor Department replaces Obama-era 'joint employer' standard

The Labor Department on Sunday issued a final rule narrowing an Obama-administration policy on when a worker can be considered to be employed by more than one company. The Obama administration policy increased the number of businesses that were made legally liable for contractors or franchisees that failed to pay overtime, minimum wages, or meet other obligations. Franchisors said that resulted in a surge of lawsuits against them. The Trump administration rule sets four tests to determine whether a company is a "joint employer," including whether it can hire or fire employees, or sets their pay. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said the rule helps "address regulations that hinder the American economy." The pro-labor Economic Policy Institute said the policy gives companies incentive to outsource jobs to dodge responsibility.

The Associated Press

2. 1917 ousts Star Wars to top box office

1917 led the weekend box office with $36.5 million in ticket sales during its first weekend in wide release, ousting Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker from the top spot it held for three weeks. Director Sam Mendez's World War I film was shown on 11 screens in its first two weeks but its studio, Universal, pushed it into 3,400 over the weekend after the movie won Golden Globes for best director and best drama film. It is expected to be nominated in several categories when the Academy Award picks are unveiled on Monday. The Rise of Skywalker fell to second place, bringing in $15 million as it approached the $1 billion mark worldwide. Jumanji: The Next Level was No. 3 with $14 million in its fifth weekend.

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3. Optimism rises at British financial firms after 4-year slump

Optimism rose in Britain's financial services sector for the first time in four years at the end of 2019, according to a survey released by business trade organization CBI and consultants PwC on Monday. The quarterly survey of 94 banks, insurers, and investment firms had not shown an uptick in optimism since June 2016, when British voters approved the country's departure from the European Union. "An uptick in hiring, investment in systems, and better profit expectations for the first three months of the year are driving the positivity in the sector, following the general election," said Andrew Kail, PwC's head of financial services. Last year's early elections gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson the solid majority he needed to deliver on his promise to "get Brexit done."


4. Stocks gain as China delegation heads to U.S. to finalize trade deal

U.S. stock index futures gained early Monday after falling Friday due partly to a weaker-than-expected December employment report. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were up by 0.2 percent or more several hours before the opening bell. Investors focused Monday on a key step toward a deal to de-escalate the U.S.-China trade war, as a Chinese delegation travels to the U.S. to sign a "phase one" trade deal between the world's two largest economies. On Friday, the Dow fell by 0.5 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both lost 0.3 percent after the Labor Department reported that the economy added 145,000 jobs in December, falling short of the gains of 160,000 jobs forecast by economists polled by Dow Jones.


5. Mnuchin: Boeing 737 Max crisis could curb 2020 economic growth by half-point

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that U.S. economic growth could take a half-point hit from Boeing's 737 Max jet problems, but still should grow by 2.5 percent. "There's no question that the Boeing situation is going to slow down the GDP numbers," Mnuchin said on Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures. "Boeing is one of the largest exporters." Boeing said this month that it would pause production of the 737 Max as its worldwide grounding continues following two crashes that killed 346 people. U.S. airlines have canceled flights of their 737 Max planes until at least April, and regulators have yet to provide a timeline for when the jets will be cleared to return to service. Boeing has reassigned workers from the 737 Max to other projects, but some of its suppliers have been forced to lay off employees.

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.