Cutting off jobless benefits early may have hurt state economies.

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Daily Business Briefing

Aug. 20, 2021, 7:51 a.m. ET

Aug. 20, 2021, 7:51 a.m. ET

When states began cutting off federal unemployment benefits this summer, their governors argued that the move would push people to return to work.

New research suggests that ending the benefits did indeed lead some people to get jobs, but that far more people did not, leaving them — and perhaps also their states’ economies — worse off.

A total of 26 states, all but one with Republican governors, have moved to end the expanded unemployment benefits that have been in place since the pandemic began. Many business owners blame the benefits for discouraging people from returning to work, while supporters argue they have provided a lifeline to people who lost jobs in the pandemic.

The extra benefits are set to expire nationwide next month, although President Biden on Thursday encouraged states with high unemployment rates to use separate federal funds to continue the programs.

To study the policies’ effect, a team of economists used data from Earnin, a financial services company, to review anonymized banking records from more than 18,000 low-income workers who were receiving unemployment benefits in late April.

The researchers found that ending the benefits did have an effect on employment: In states that cut off benefits, about 26 percent of people in the study were working in early August, compared with about 22 percent of people in states that continued the benefits.

But far more people did not find jobs. In the 19 states ending the programs for which researchers had data, about two million people lost their benefits entirely, and a million had their payments reduced. Of those, only about 145,000 people found jobs because of the cutoff. (The researchers argue the true number is probably even lower, because the workers they were studying were the people most likely to be severely affected by the loss of income, and therefore may not have been representative of everyone receiving benefits.)

Cutting off the benefits left unemployed workers worse off on average. The researchers estimate that workers lost an average of $278 a week in benefits because of the change, and gained just $14 a week in earnings (not $14 an hour, as previously reported here). They compensated by cutting spending by $145 a week — a roughly 20 percent reduction — and thus put less money into their local economies.

“The labor market didn’t pop after you kicked these people off,” said Michael Stepner, a University of Toronto economist who was one of the study’s authors. “Most of these people are not finding jobs, and it’s going to take them a long time to get their earnings back.”

The findings are consistent with other recent research that has found that the extra unemployment benefits have had a measurable but small effect on the number of people working and looking for work. The next piece of evidence will come Friday morning, when the Labor Department will release state-level data on employment in July.

Coral Murphy Marcos contributed reporting.

Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

China on Friday approved a law that will limit the collection and use of personal data, a step that reflects public unease about the power of big tech companies but is unlikely to curb the Chinese government’s extensive ability to surveil its citizens.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, the Personal Information Protection Law — which some legal experts have called China’s version of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or G.D.P.R. — bars the collection “to excess” of people’s data. It calls for better mechanisms for individuals to file complaints about how their data is used.

The new law forbids businesses from using their information on customers to charge them “unreasonably” higher prices. And it requires that facial recognition equipment installed in public places be clearly labeled.

Companies that break these rules face fines, as do their employees. The full text of the new law, which comes into effect on Nov. 1, has yet to be made public.

China has come down hard this year on its once high-flying internet industry. Giants like Alibaba, Tencent, Meituan, Ant and Didi were able to grow and acquire influence over huge segments of the economy in large part because Beijing barely regulated their business practices. Now, the government is racing to catch up.

An earlier draft of the privacy law said its provisions applied to the Chinese government as well. It forbade official agencies from processing personal data beyond what was “necessary” for their legally prescribed duties.

But the government and the police in China have claimed expansive authority to monitor people, often in the name of public security. And it is unclear how much the new law will change that. The G.D.P.R. in Europe specifically restricts the legal justification government bodies can claim for processing personal data.

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Alex Gorsky, the chief executive of Johnson & Johnson since 2012, at the White House in March. He will leave the post in January.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Johnson & Johnson’s chief executive, Alex Gorsky, will step down after nearly a decade and be replaced by one of his deputies, Joaquin Duato, at the beginning of next year, the company announced on Thursday.

Mr. Gorsky, 61, will remain at the company as its executive chairman. Mr. Duato, 59, has spent more than three decades at Johnson & Johnson and is best known for leading its pharmaceutical division.

Mr. Gorsky, who got his start as a drug sales representative and has been at the company since 1988, said in a statement that the timing was right for a change in leadership. He was also motivated by health issues in his family, he said.

Mr. Gorsky’s tenure coincided with a period of expansion and financial growth for Johnson & Johnson, which is based in New Jersey and is the world’s most valuable maker of health care products. Its stock price has nearly tripled since Mr. Gorsky took over as chief executive in 2012.

In recent years, the company has grappled with a series of challenges, including prominent lawsuits and trials, as well as the tumultuous rollout of its Covid-19 vaccine, which has been slowed by production problems and concerns about rare but serious side effects.

The vaccine is a small fraction of the company’s business, which spans medical devices, consumer products and medicines. Johnson & Johnson has vowed to sell the vaccine at break-even prices during the emergency period of the pandemic, with global sales expected to total $2.5 billion this year.

Johnson & Johnson announced in July that it would pay up to $5 billion to states and local governments to release it from all civil liability in the opioid epidemic, part of a $26 billion deal joined by several leading drug distributors.

The company has also been facing lawsuits claiming that the talc in its baby powder can cause cancer and that the company was aware of that risk even as it marketed the product. It decided last year to wind down North American sales of its talc-based baby powder.

Mr. Gorsky is likely to receive a substantial payout on his eventual departure. He is eligible to receive previously issued grants of nearly $48 million in stock and options in the event of a voluntary termination, according to a regulatory filing from March.

Brandon Mena took pictures of himself in Caracas, Venezuela, last year to share with subscribers to his OnlyFans profile.
Credit…Cristian Hernandez/AFP — Getty Images
  • OnlyFans said on Thursday that it would ban sexually explicit imagery starting in October.

    The company, a social media platform where users can sell subscription access to content, said in a statement that it would block users from posting explicit photos and videos at the request of its “banking partners and payout providers.” OnlyFans said it would still allow people to post imagery containing nudity that complied with its guidelines.

    A spokeswoman for the company did not respond to questions about who had made the request or what had prompted the shift. OnlyFans has become a source of income for two million creators, including sex workers, during the pandemic.

  • For the first time, a major awards show is going where the eyeballs are.

    The Academy of Country Music Awards will be streamed live on Amazon Prime Video starting next year, Amazon said on Thursday in an announcement with the company that produces the show, Dick Clark Productions.

    The ACMs, as they are known, will become the first significant awards telecast to move entirely online. The chief executive of the Academy of Country Music said in a statement that moving the ceremony to Amazon “will deliver the broadest possible audience and, simultaneously, deliver massive value to our artists whose music lives inside this ecosystem, enabling fans to discover and stream music as they watch.”

  • Charles Schwab, one of the country’s biggest brokerage firms, said on Thursday that it was delaying its return to the office until at least January. The company, which has about 20,000 employees, is the latest firm to push back plans to recall employees. Amazon has also delayed its return until January, and Lyft has pushed its return to February. Other companies, including Google, BlackRock and Wells Fargo, have postponed their returns until October.

    Schwab also said it would give “the vast majority” of its employees a “special” 5 percent raise, starting in late September. Walt Bettinger, the chief executive, said the raises were a thank-you for “outstanding results for our clients and growth for the company.” Employees that receive incentive-based compensation and senior executives will not be eligible for the raises.

Selling phones and SIM cards at a market in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2016.
Credit…Adam Ferguson for The New York Times

Facebook says it has added several security features to help people in Afghanistan control their accounts as fears rise of reprisals from the Taliban.

In a series of tweets late Thursday, Facebook’s head of security said the company had temporarily disabled the ability to view and search the friends lists of Facebook accounts inside Afghanistan. He also said the platform, which is seeing a proliferation of new Taliban accounts despite a ban on the group, had provided a tool to help Afghans quickly lock their accounts if they feared being targeted.

The unprecedented measures target one of the most fundamental Facebook features: the friends list. They represent a frank acknowledgment from the company, which has long touted its ability to connect the world, of the risks of having personal information available on social networks.

Since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan this week, their promises of amnesty and reconciliation have been undermined by reports that their soldiers are engaging in reprisal attacks and forcibly cracking down on protests.

In the days since the militants took over cities including Kabul, the capital, many Afghans have shuttered their social media accounts and deleted messages out of fear that their digital footprints could make them targets of the former insurgents. In the past, the Taliban have meted out brutal retribution against Afghans with ties to the country’s former government or Western countries such as the United States.

The Taliban have nevertheless become sophisticated users of social media. During the summer offensive that catapulted them to power, they used social media platforms to spread their messages.

Facebook’s head of security, Nathaniel Gleicher, also urged people with friends in Afghanistan to consider tightening their own privacy settings.

The social network’s strict bans on the Taliban have pushed many of its most influential voices and officials to Twitter. Still, the platform has struggled to keep out all accounts. Dozens of new ones have appeared on the site in recent days, presenting the company with the difficult question of how to regulate a group that now controls Afghanistan.

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