The U.S. economy continues to look bleak after more than 3 million workers filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, according to federal labor data released Thursday.
Although that figure is down slightly from the week before, over 33 million Americans have now filed for initial jobless claims as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has routed some industries to Depression-era levels.
Yet even as the economy begins to slowly fire up again state by state, economists expect unemployment levels to continue rising — and to extend across a broader swath of industries.
Meanwhile, the debate over state reopenings goes on — and coronavirus cases show no sign of slowing down. As of Thursday evening, the death toll in the U.S. is over 76,000 and there are more than 1.2 million confirmed cases, according to NBC News' count.
- MAPS: Confirmed cases in the U.S. and worldwide, confirmed deaths in the U.S. and globally.
- Reopening America: See what states across the U.S. are starting to reopen.
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Frontier Airlines will drop open-seat fee that drew attacks
Frontier Airlines is dropping plans to charge passengers extra to sit next to an empty middle seat after congressional Democrats accused the airline of trying to profit from fear over the new coronavirus.
“We recognize the concerns raised that we are profiting from safety and this was never our intent,” Frontier CEO Barry Biffle said late Wednesday in a letter to three lawmakers. “We simply wanted to provide our customers with an option for more space.”
Biffle said the airline will rescind the extra fee, which Frontier called More Room, and block the seats from being sold.
Earlier in the day, Democrats had railed against Frontier's plan to charge passengers at least $39 per flight to guarantee they would sit next to an empty middle seat. The offer was to begin with flights Friday and run through Aug. 31.
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Thai elephants, out of work due to coronavirus, trudge home
BANGKOK — The millions of unemployed in Thailand because of the coronavirus include elephants dependent on tourists to feed their voracious appetites. With scant numbers of foreign visitors, commercial elephant camps and sanctuaries lack funds for their upkeep and have sent more than 100 of the animals trudging as far as 100 miles back to their homes.
The Save Elephant Foundation in the northern province of Chiang Mai has been promoting the elephants’ return to the greener pastures of home. The foundation supports fundraising appeals to feed animals still housed at tourist parks, but also believes it is good for them to return to their natural habitat where they can be more self-sufficient.
The situation is critical. London-based World Animal Protection says as many as 2,000 tame elephants are at risk of starvation because their owners are unable to feed them.
Since last month, more than 100 of the animals have marched from all over Chiang Mai to their homeland of Mae Chaem, which is dotted with villages where members of the Karen ethnic minority live and traditionally keep elephants.
Relief payments sent to the dead should be returned, IRS says
The federal government said Wednesday people should return coronavirus relief payments that were sent to the deceased.
The IRS issued the formal guidance on its website Wednesday, and the Treasury Department also tweeted about what it called the inadvertent payments.
Congress authorized payments of $1,200 to individuals as part of a massive relief package due to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus epidemic. Many were based on past tax returns, and people have reported that relatives who have since died got that money.