Business Report: Jobless claims, connecting workers to jobs, SALT cap, Merck halts trial

Sen. Michael Testa says businesses in his area are hiring, as companies get ready for the summer tourism season

There’s some optimism about the economy after the U.S. Department of Labor reported 576,000 new first-time claims for unemployment, which was the lowest weekly total since March 2020 and shows the job market is bouncing back. In New Jersey, about 11,000 new unemployment claims were filed in the latest week, a drop of 43% from the prior week.

State Sen. Michael Testa says businesses in his area are hiring, as companies get ready for the summer tourism season. So lawmakers in the first legislative district have launched an initiative to help unemployed workers connect with companies that are hiring. Testa believes the state labor department could be doing more to help get people back to work, and is critical of the decision to keep one-stop career centers closed. While nearly 21,000 new jobs were added in New Jersey last month, the state has only recovered about 54% of all the jobs lost in the past year. The state’s unemployment rate, at 7.7 %, is higher than the national average.

Since the tax law changed and a $10,000 limit was placed on local and state income tax (SALT) deductions, U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5th) has been fighting to overturn the cap. Now, Gottheimer has new allies in his fight. He announced the formation of a new 30-member bipartisan SALT caucus that will lobby to get the law changed.

A potential COVID-19 treatment has been shelved. Kenilworth-based Merck is halting a trial of an experimental COVID-19 drug after it failed to help hospitalized patients. Merck is still proceeding with testing of another antiviral drug for COVID-19 for outpatient use.

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