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Hiring picked up last month as states lifted restrictions and stepped up vaccination efforts, with the government reporting on Friday that the American economy added 379,000 jobs last month.

The pace of hiring in February was an unexpectedly large improvement over the gains made in January. It was also the strongest showing since October.

But there are still about 9.5 million fewer jobs today than a year ago. Congress is considering a $1.9 trillion package of pandemic relief intended to carry struggling households and businesses through the coming months.

Analysts have offered increasingly optimistic forecasts for growth later in the year. But millions of workers are still relying on unemployment benefits and other government assistance, and first-time jobless claims rose last week.

Unemployment rate

By Ella Koeze·Seasonally adjusted·Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The unemployment rate in February was 6.2 percent, down from the previous month’s rate of 6.3 percent. But as the Federal Reserve and top administration officials have emphasized, that number understates the extent of the damage.

Most of the February gains came in the leisure and hospitality industries, including restaurant and bars, which have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. But losses in employment by state and local governments pared the overall increase.

More than four million people have quit the labor force in the last year, including those sidelined because of child care and other family responsibilities or health concerns. They are not included in the official jobless count.

“We’re still in a pandemic economy,” said Julia Coronado, founder of MacroPolicy Perspectives and a former Federal Reserve economist. “Millions of people are looking for work and willing to work, but they are constrained from working.”

Recruiting sites have had an increase in job postings in recent weeks. Tom Gimbel, chief executive of LaSalle Network, a Chicago staffing firm, said the employers he speaks to are “absolutely ready to hire.”

Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, said that the central bank would be concerned if the move toward higher yields grew messy or if they made credit hard to obtain.
Credit…Susan Walsh/Pool via REUTERS

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, an important benchmark that influences the cost of borrowing for companies and households alike, jumped sharply on Friday morning after the government reported a strong increase in hiring in February.

American employers added 379,000 jobs

last month, lead by solid gains in leisure and hospitality, which investors seemed to take as a signal that the economy is rebounding. Rates on government bonds have been creeping up since the start of the year as investors bet that big government spending, widespread of vaccinations and cheap-money policies from the Federal Reserve would cause the economy to grow more strongly while pushing inflation slightly higher.

The 10-year note rocketed above 1.6 percent shortly after the jobs report, roughly matching its level at the start of the pandemic. That rate had slipped to roughly 0.5 percent last summer.

Fed officials have generally painted the recent increase in bond yields as a sign that investors are growing optimistic, rather than as a problem to worry about. The Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, said on Thursday that the central bank would be concerned if the move toward higher yields grew messy — as market moves did last year, when trading in key securities became difficult — or if they made credit hard to obtain.

The central bank has been clear that it plans to keep near-zero interest rates in place until it has achieved full employment, stable inflation at 2 percent and an economy headed for a period of slightly faster price gains. Officials have also said that they will continue making large-scale bond purchases until the economy has made “substantial further progress.”

“There’s reason to think that we’ll begin to make more progress, soon,” Mr. Powell said on Thursday. “But even if that happens, as now seems likely, it will take some time to achieve ‘substantial’ further progress.”

The Christmas windows at the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan in December. The changes at Saks will not be visible to customers, who will still see Saks stores and a Saks website.
Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Saks Fifth Avenue said on Friday that it would separate its e-commerce business and fleet of 40 stores into two units, a move that enables the company to devote more time and money to its online presence, which has become increasingly crucial during the pandemic.

Insight Partners, a venture capital firm, made a $500 million minority equity investment in Saks’ e-commerce business, valuing the digital arm at $2 billion, the retailer said in a release.

The stores will operate as their own entity. Hudson’s Bay, the owner of Saks Fifth Avenue, said on Friday that as separate but related companies, the businesses “will be better able to appropriately plan for and invest in their respective service models.”

The changes will not be visible to customers, who will still see Saks stores and a Saks website. But it will allow the retailer to make new investments in the digital operation, which will lead marketing and merchandising for the whole business. The e-commerce arm will be run by Marc Metrick, who was previously overseeing both parts of Saks. The company said that the stores “will fulfill the physical functions” of the website, like online pickup, exchanges, returns and alterations, establishing a clear hierarchy.

“By separating the dot-com business, we can show investors its value,” Richard Baker, chief executive of Hudson’s Bay, told The Wall Street Journal, which reported the news first on Friday. “Investors don’t want to put their money in bricks-and-mortar retailers right now,” he said.

Reddit’s chief executive, Steve Huffman, said of going public: “We’re working toward that moment.”
Credit…Zach Gibson/Getty Images

The world’s most popular internet message board is thinking about going public.

Reddit, the social network and online bulletin, said on Thursday that it had appointed its first chief financial officer, Drew Vollero, in a move toward tidying up the company’s books before an eventual public offering of its stock.

Mr. Vollero, 55, previously ran financial operations for Mattel, Snap and Allied Universal. His task at Reddit will be building out the financial, audit and accounting functions and leading the company through the process of going public.

“Is Reddit going public?” Steve Huffman, Reddit’s chief executive, said in an interview. “We’re thinking about it. We’re working toward that moment.”

Mr. Huffman said Reddit did not have a timeline, but Mr. Vollero’s appointment indicated that the 15-year-old company was developing its financial operations to be more similar to those of publicly traded peers like Twitter and Facebook. More than 52 million people visit Reddit every day, and it is home to more than 100,000 topic-based communities, or subforums.

For years, Reddit represented a kind of return to the message board era of the internet, where people gathered to discuss topics as varied as makeup and video games. It dabbled in different models and occasionally generated controversy, such as over its role in easing online bullying and the spread of hateful content.

Mr. Huffman, one of Reddit’s co-founders, returned to run the site in 2015. He has changed many parts of the business, working to rein in hate speech and digital abuse and developing the company’s advertising and direct-to-consumer product business. Reddit has revamped its terms of service to outlaw the noxious content that filled some of its subforums in its earlier days.

Reddit has also added to its executive ranks in recent months, hiring a head of security and appointing a new member to its board. In December, the company acquired Dubsmash, a video-focused social app that competes with TikTok. Last month, Reddit raised $250 million in new capital, its largest venture round, valuing the company at $6 billion.

Reddit plans to use the funding to expand its business, including its financial team, Mr. Huffman said. He also wants to make Reddit more mainstream by improving the product or making other investments, he said.

“Reddit can be hard to get at first,” Mr. Huffman said. “It takes a little time. We want to shorten that time.”

Stock futures pointed to a gain for Wall Street on Friday, after new data showed that the pace of hiring picked up in the U.S. in February, in what would be a rebound from three consecutive days of losses.

But a jump in government bond yields following the jobs report threatened that rally. Rising bond yields have spooked stock investors, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed above 1.6 percent soon after the report.

The report from the Labor Department showed that employers added 379,000 positions last month, which was well above forecasts for a gain of about 198,000 jobs.

A gain for Wall Street would come after the S&P 500 had fallen more than 1 percent so far this week, in what could be its third straight week of losses. On Thursday, the Nasdaq index closed on the verge of a correction, which is a 10 percent drop from its recent high, as tech stocks have been hit particularly hard by the recent volatility.

That volatility has been set off by the bond market. Yields on 10-year Treasury notes have climbed for five straight weeks as inflation expectations have risen.

Investors are betting that a robust economic recovery accompanied by a large stimulus plan might lead to higher prices. After a long stretch of low inflation, there are worries that if high inflation re-emerged, central banks would struggle to control it. This would be bad for bonds, and they have been sold off over the past few weeks. But the pace of the sell-off and rise in yields has caught many by surprise.

Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, has repeatedly tried to reassure markets that the central bank does not intend to pull back monetary stimulus soon. On Thursday, he said that the Fed would communicate “well in advance” if it planned to slow the pace of its bond-buying program.

Still, his message of patience went unheeded and bonds and stocks dropped on Thursday. Mr. Powell said the Fed was watching the market fluctuations and the rise in yields was “notable.”

The oil market is on more solid footing. Prices have surged after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies decided on Thursday to keep a tight rein on oil production. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, rose 2.4 percent to $65.34 a barrel, the first time futures have climbed above $65 since January 2020.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi oil minister, last year. On Thursday, Saudi Arabia and other oil producers agreed to keep output steady, a move that is expected to lead to higher oil prices.
Credit…via Reuters

Oil futures prices hit their highest levels in more than a year on Friday, rising more than 2.5 percent a day after OPEC and its allies surprised markets by agreeing to hold production mainly steady in April.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, reached as high as $68.50 a barrel, while the U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, sold for as much as $65.36.

The OPEC Plus group decided not to pump more oil despite rising prices and forecasts of growing demand.

“OPEC’s decision tightens an already tight market,” wrote analysts at Morgan Stanley in a note to clients after the meeting.

The investment bank estimated that the market would be undersupplied by as much as 1.9 million barrels a day later this year. The analysts said that with restrictions intended to curb the pandemic easing, global oil demand could grow by more than one million barrels a day, or about 1 percent, each month for several months in a row later this year.

Even before the meeting, forecasts were predicting oil prices would rise. Goldman Sachs has forecast that Brent crude would sell for $75 a barrel in the third quarter, and Morgan Stanley says that Brent could go as high as $80 a barrel later this year.

Several factors could blunt the upward momentum. OPEC, Russia and other producers are keeping several million barrels a day off the market and may become increasingly impatient at restraining output. Higher prices may also lead shale producers in the United States to step up production.

Andrew H. Giuliani, right, in 2018 with his father, Rudolph W. Giuliani, center, and Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Newsmax, the conservative news outlet trying to compete with Fox News in a post-Trump era for viewers skeptical of mainstream media and the Democratic administration in Washington, has a new on-air talent: Andrew H. Giuliani, son of Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The younger Mr. Giuliani, who worked as an aide for former President Donald J. Trump, started this week as a political analyst and correspondent, he said Thursday on a radio show hosted by his father.

“When you walk out of the White House for the last time,” the 35-year-old son said, you wonder “if you’re ever going to do anything in your life that’s going to have the meaning of that.” The Newsmax job is, he added, “obviously a way to continue the meaning that I had found.”

His father, working as a lawyer for Mr. Trump, helped promote the debunked claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. The elder Mr. Giuliani has been targeted in defamation lawsuits filed by Dominion Voting Systems and another voting technology company, Smartmatic.

Newsmax already employs Sean Spicer, Mr. Trump’s first White House press secretary, as well as the pro-Trump social media stars Diamond and Silk. One of Mr. Spicer’s successors as press secretary under Mr. Trump, Kayleigh McEnany, has appeared recently on Fox News as a commentator.

Tribune Publishing’s papers include The Chicago Tribune, The Daily News, The Hartford Courant and The Orlando Sentinel.
Credit…Scott Olson/Getty Images

Tribune Publishing, which owns The Chicago Tribune, The Daily News and seven other metropolitan dailies, added substantially to its digital subscribers and digital revenue last year, the newspaper chain said on Thursday in its first earnings release since it announced a deal last month to be purchased by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Tribune also said that it had increased its cash holdings over the year by $36.7 million, to nearly $100 million, and lowered its total operating expenses by more than $138 million.

In the fourth quarter, Tribune’s advertising revenue dipped more than $32 million compared with the same quarter of 2019, a stark decline partly attributable to the coronavirus pandemic, while its overall subscription revenue fell $3.1 million even as revenue from digital subscriptions grew by $5.4 million.

Last month, Tribune and Alden announced that Alden would buy the 68 percent of the company’s shares it did not already own at a valuation of $630 million, assuming two-thirds of Tribune’s remaining shareholders approve the deal. Alden already owns dozens of papers across the country through a subsidiary, MediaNews Group.

Terry Jimenez, who was named Tribune’s chief executive in February 2020, pointed in a news release to the company’s digital gains as part of its effort to mitigate “the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic” and position Tribune “for a successful future.”

Tribune gained approximately 102,000 digital subscribers in 2020, a 30.5 percent rise, bringing its total to 436,000, the company said. Digital revenue, including both digital advertising and subscriptions, grew by $16.5 million, or 57 percent.

“The steps we took over the course of the year to rationalize our cost structure, significantly reduce future obligations, pursue digital growth and invest in high-quality content enabled Tribune to create a platform to succeed for years to come,” Mr. Jimenez said.

Alden already owns a 32 percent stake in Tribune, which it acquired in late 2019. The hedge fund, which is based in Manhattan, is known for cutting costs at newspapers it owns in order to increase profit margins. In January 2020, Tribune offered buyouts widely. After the pandemic arrived in the United States, it permanently cut some employees’ pay, instituted furloughs and also shuttered several of its papers’ offices.

Tribune said that, in deference to the Alden deal, it would not hold a conference call to discuss the earnings announcement.

New York Times

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