The Morning Dispatch: A Lackluster Jobs Report
Plus: A look at the ransomware hack disrupting gas shipping on the East Coast.
|The Dispatch Staff||May 10||11|
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
The economy grew at a much slower pace than projected in April, with the Labor Department reporting that employers added only 266,000 jobs last month—far fewer than the approximately 1 million that were expected. The unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 6.1 percent, and the total employment remains about 8 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels.
One of the United States’ largest oil and gas pipelines shut down operations over the weekend after it was hit by a ransomware attack that administration officials believe to have come from a criminal group, not a foreign government. The 5,500-mile pipeline transports about 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supply.
A series of explosions outside a school in Kabul on Saturday killed at least 50 people—many of them teenage girls—and wounded over 100 more. As worries mount over what will happen when the United States completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban denied responsibility for the attack. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, however, pinned it on the group, saying the Taliban has shown “they have no interest in a peaceful solution to the current crisis.”
Protests in Jerusalem grew violent over the weekend as Palestinian activists protesting potential eviction clashed with Israeli police forces, leaving hundreds injured.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday officially endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace Rep. Liz Cheney as House Republicans’ conference chair. A vote on whether to oust Cheney is expected Wednesday morning.
A gunman in Colorado opened fire at a birthday party early Sunday morning, killing six before shooting and killing himself.
The United States confirmed 20,999 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday per the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, with 1.63 percent of the 1,290,803 tests reported coming back positive. An additional 236 deaths were attributed to the virus on Sunday, bringing the pandemic’s American death toll to 581,752. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 31,992 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Meanwhile, 2,369,784 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered yesterday, with 152,116,936 Americans having now received at least one dose.
A Bump on the Road to Recovery?
With vaccines increasingly abundant, economic restrictions loosening, and President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan pumping hundreds of billions of stimulus dollars into the economy, hiring was expected to go gangbusters in April. After employers added 536,000 jobs in February and 770,000 in March, economists and financial analysts expected April’s numbers to surpass 1 million, taking a sizable bite out of the 8.4-million job gap in total employment dating back to February 2020—just before the pandemic set in.
But when the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ April report hit email inboxes at 8:30 a.m. on Friday morning, it threw D.C. into a frenzy: Only 266,000 jobs had been added, and the unemployment rate actually ticked back up ever so slightly, from 6.0 percent in March to 6.1 percent now. Drilling down a little further, most of April’s gain can be attributed to the leisure and hospitality sector, which added just over 330,000 jobs, 187,000 of which were in restaurants and bars. Those advances, however, were largely offset by a sharp decline in temporary help services (-111,000), couriers and messengers (-77,000), and manufacturing (-18,000).
Average hourly earnings inched up 0.7 percent in April—from $29.96 to $30.17—confirming lots of anecdotal evidence from recent months that the labor market is tightening despite approximately 7.4 million job openings nationwide. Total employment is still hovering around 144 million, well below the 152.5 million of just over a year ago.
The finger-pointing commenced almost immediately, with economists and policymakers on both sides of the aisle looking to assign blame for the disappointing numbers. “While the anemic jobs numbers in April are concerning, they are not surprising, given the fact that Joe Biden’s disastrous tax-and-spend packages are paying Americans more to stay home than to enter the workforce,” GOP Rep. Fred Keller of Pennsylvania said Friday.
The Colonial Pipeline Hack
While Americans spent Friday and Saturday with an eye on the sky in anticipation of plummeting Chinese space debris, a cyber attack of unknown origins triggered the shutdown of the East Coast’s largest underground fuel line. Breaches of critical infrastructure are becoming increasingly common nationwide, with many firms in the energy sector—which is heavily reliant on automation—finding themselves ill-prepared to combat increasingly sophisticated hacking operations.
Friday’s infiltration—which targeted Colonial Pipeline Co.—temporarily disrupted the movement of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products supplying major cities up and down the coast. According to the company’s website, the conduit connecting the Gulf Coast to New Jersey transports about 100 million gallons of fuel every single day. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Sunday declared a state of emergency, affecting 17 states and Washington, D.C.
“We proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems,” Colonial said Saturday. “Upon learning of the issue, a leading, third-party cybersecurity firm was engaged, and they have launched an investigation into the nature and scope of this incident, which is ongoing. We have contacted law enforcement and other federal agencies.”
Just after 5 p.m. on Sunday, the company provided an update: “While our mainlines (Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4) remain offline, some smaller lateral lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational. We are in the process of restoring service to other laterals and will bring our full system back online only when we believe it is safe to do so, and in full compliance with the approval of all federal regulations.”
Worth Your Time
You’re not going to want to miss Kevin D. Williamson’s take on the latest round of GOP in-fighting. “[Kevin] McCarthy et al. talk about the political situation like they are talking about the weather, as though it were something that just happened to them rather than something that is the result of their own choices, decisions, and actions,” he writes at National Review. “Somehow, Trump has convinced McCarthy et al. that Republicans can’t win without him—even though he quite recently has demonstrated, as plainly as can be, that they cannot win with him. Republican leaders are living in talk-radio reality.”
In her Mother’s Day column for the New York Times, Elizabeth Bruenig writes about her and her husband’s decision to have children young—and how she doesn’t regret it for a minute, even as Millennials increasingly delay having kids. “One of the things they don’t tell you about having babies is that you don’t ever have a baby; you have your baby, which is, to you, the ur-baby, the sum of all babies,” she writes. “The moment they laid her damp rosy body on my chest, I knew she would envelop my world.”
In a piece for the Deseret News, Jonathan Rauch makes an optimistic case for compromise, relying on an agreement forged between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the LGBTQ community in Utah regarding nondiscrimination protections as an example. “As any experienced negotiator knows, sitting across the table gives people information and understanding about the other side. Often it builds relationships, and sometimes even friendships,” he writes. “Even when we disagree on our core beliefs about faith and identity and justice, we can still share the country. We can still reverse spirals of polarization. We might even replenish respect for America’s longest four-letter word: compromise.”
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Toeing the Company Line
With Rep. Liz Cheney’s ouster from House GOP leadership increasingly likely, Haley and Audrey joined Sarah and Steve on TheDispatch Podcast to discuss what it all means for the party.
In his Friday G-File, Jonah focuses on language. A few Democratic congresswomen and progressive organizations trotted out the term “birthing person” last week as a replacement for mother, because “it's not just cis-gender women that can get pregnant and give birth.” Jonah had thoughts. “If one of the core tenets of the new Great Awokening is that the term ‘mother’ is divisive or bigoted, then the Great Awokening is doomed (and deservedly so),” he writes. “Don’t tell me conservatives are too obsessed with silly and divisive culture war ‘distractions,’ if in the next breath you’re going to lecture me on the need to erase the term ‘mother’ from the English language.”
In his late-week French Press (🔒), David argues that the GOP has a grassroots problem. “The Republican base is often unhinged, increasingly radicalized, and intolerant of dissent,” he argues. “We can’t properly diagnose what ails the GOP unless we’re honest about the composition of the GOP.” Then, on Sunday, he looks into the damage he believes American Christendom is doing to American Christianity. “America doesn’t have a state-established church, but it certainly possesses a version of the Christendom [Søren] Kierkegaard despised,” he writes. “America possesses immensely powerful, immensely wealthy Christian institutions that may not be part of the state but in many places are strong enough to exercise power over the state. And they certainly create their own culture, a culture that shapes the daily lives of millions of Americans.”
Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Haley Byrd Wilt (@byrdinator), Audrey Fahlberg (@FahlOutBerg), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).