The daily business briefing: June 5, 2020

Weekly jobless claims fall ahead of May employment report, American Airlines stock soars on news of added flights, and more 

An American Airlines plane
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

1. Weekly jobless claims fall to 1.9 million ahead of May employment report

Nearly 1.9 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday. It was the first time since mid-March that the weekly jobless claims fell below 2 million, suggesting to economists that the worst of the crisis could be over as states lift coronavirus lockdowns and businesses reopen. The worst week came in late March, when 6.9 million people applied for jobless benefits. Still, with jobless claims in the millions, the economic pain from the coronavirus crisis is far from over. The Labor Department releases its May nonfarm employment report on Friday morning. Economists expect a loss of 8.3 million jobs in May, with an unemployment rate of 20.5 percent, more than twice the highest rate recorded between the Great Depression and the coronavirus crisis.

NBC News

2. American Airlines stock jumps on news of added July flights

American Airlines shares jumped by 41 percent on Thursday after the largest U.S. carrier announced that it would significantly increase flights next month. American's stock is still 45 percent below where it was in mid-February, before the coronavirus pandemic essentially shut down air travel. American shares fell more sharply than those of most other carriers due to the company's higher debt load, and concerns about how quickly it could bounce back. Recently, demand for leisure travel has increased but analysts warn that business and international travel could take years to recover. "As we plan for a post-coronavirus recovery, we know we will be living with the effects of the pandemic for some time," said American CEO Doug Parker said in a memo to employees.

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3. Stock futures rise after S&P 500 snaps 4-day winning streak

U.S. stock index futures surged early Friday after the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq snapped four-day winning streaks the day before and paused a rally fueled by signs of economic improvement as easing coronavirus lockdowns allowed businesses to reopen. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 1 percent several hours before the opening bell, while those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained 0.6 percent and 0.3 percent respectively. On Thursday, the Dow inched higher, but the S&P 500 dropped by 0.6 percent and the Nasdaq lost 0.7 percent. Friday's gains came ahead of the Labor Department's employment report, which is expected to show that the job losses due to the coronavirus crisis remained in the millions in May, but declined from the previous month as businesses began reopening.


4. Trump orders agencies to sidestep environmental reviews on big projects

President Trump, invoking powers under the coronavirus emergency, signed an executive order Thursday requiring federal agencies to scale back environmental reviews to speed up highway construction and other major projects. Trump said in the order that the agencies had to find workarounds to create jobs and offset layoffs linked to lockdowns imposed to fight the pandemic. "Unnecessary delays in timely agency actions will deny our citizens opportunities for jobs and economic security and will hinder our economic recovery from the national emergency, keeping millions of Americans out of work," Trump said in the order. Also on the same day, the Environmental Protection Agency formally proposed changing how it reviews new air-pollution rules. Critics said the EPA move would hamper future efforts to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.

The Associated Press

5. J.C. Penney releases list of 154 stores it's closing

J.C. Penney, which filed for bankruptcy protection in May, on Thursday released the list of the 154 stores it is closing this summer. The discount department store chain said the stores, located in more than two dozen states, would hold closing sales lasting 10 to 16 weeks. Chief Executive Jill Soltau said the "store optimization strategy" would help the company "emerge from both Chapter 11 and the COVID-19 pandemic as a stronger retailer." Another big retail chain, Gap, on Thursday reported a $932 billion quarterly loss, the worst in the clothing retailer's 51-year history. The company closed 90 percent of its stores due to the coronavirus crisis but is reopening them ahead of schedule. Gap shares fell by nearly 5 percent in after-hours trading.


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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.