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U.S. employers add a weak 194,000 jobs as COVID-19 delta variant maintains hold

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U.S. employers add a weak 194,000 jobs as COVID-19 delta variant maintains hold

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added just 194,000 jobs in September, a second straight tepid gain and evidence that the pandemic still has a grip on the economy with many companies struggling to fill millions of open jobs.

Friday’s report from the Labor Department also showed that the unemployment rate fell sharply to 4.8% from 5.2% in August.

The economy is showing some signs of emerging from the drag of the delta variant of the coronavirus, with confirmed new COVID-19 infections declining, restaurant traffic picking up slightly and consumers eager to spend.

But new infections remained high as September began, and employers are still struggling to find workers because many people who lost jobs in the pandemic have yet to start looking again. Supply chain bottlenecks have also worsened, slowing factories, restraining homebuilders and emptying some store shelves.

Many economists still think that most of the roughly 3 million people who lost jobs and stopped looking for work since the pandemic struck will resume their searches as COVID wanes. It took years after the 2008-2009 recession, they note, for the proportion of people working or seeking work to return to pre-recession levels. The government doesn’t count people as unemployed unless they’re actively looking for jobs.

Some of the factors that have kept many jobless people on the sidelines may be starting to ease. According to a survey by the Census Bureau, for example, the number of people who aren’t working because they must stay home to care for a child declined by half in September compared with June. That figure had barely dropped last fall, when many schools remained closed and conducted virtual learning. The new census figures suggest that more parents, particularly mothers, might have rejoined the workforce last month as the school year began and their children returned to school.

In addition, an August survey by the job listings website Indeed found that the proportion of unemployed Americans who said they’d like to find a job once the school year began had more than doubled from just two months earlier.

Yet there are also signs that it might be too soon to expect a flood of parents to have rejoined the labor market. Lael Brainard, a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors, noted in a recent speech that COVID-19 outbreaks in late September caused 2,000 schools to close for an average of six days in 39 states.

Several enhanced unemployment benefits ended in early September, including a $300-a-week federal supplement as well as programs that, for the first time, covered gig workers and people who were jobless for six months or more. So far, the ending of those programs appears to have had only a small effect on the number of people seeking work.

Governors in about 25 states ended the $300 benefit before the nationwide expiration in September. Research by economists at Goldman Sachs found that unemployed people who were looking for work were much more likely to take jobs when their benefits ended. But the early cut-offs did not cause people on the sidelines to start searching again, Goldman concluded.

Another reason workers are scarce is a surge in retirements among older, more affluent workers whose home equity and stock portfolios have surged since the pandemic struck and who have managed to build up savings. Goldman Sachs estimates that about 1.5 million people have retired who wouldn’t have before the pandemic upended the economy. Many of these people will likely stay retired, economists expect.

In the meantime, fear of COVID continues to keep some would-be job seekers on the sidelines, notably those who previously worked in public-facing service jobs at restaurants, bars, hotels and retailers.

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Lucas: Healey should give Biden a hand, he could use it

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Lucas: By bowing out, Charlie Baker leaves door wide open for Maura Healey

Democrat gubernatorial candidate-in-waiting Maura Healey ought to invite President Biden to her announcement ceremony.

After getting stiffed in Georgia by Stacey Abrams, who is also running for governor, Biden could use a hug.

The Stacey diss came when the Georgia Democrat, once on Biden’s short list of vice-presidential candidates, declined to attend Biden’s speech in Atlanta last week.

It would do Healey a lot of good among Democrats, liberals and progressives to host Biden. It would show that while Biden is down and out in the polls, he still has his base of support in Massachusetts

A warm Boston reception would stand in stark contrast to the cold shoulder many Democrats, including Abrams — once a strong supporter — gave Biden in Atlanta.

Once there Biden delivered a weird speech on voting rights, comparing opponents of the Democrat-sponsored voting rights bill to racists.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the speech was not only “profoundly unpresidential, but it also “was incoherent, incorrect and beneath his office.”

Abrams claimed her absence was due to a scheduling conflict. Biden went along with the excuse. And nobody believed either one of them. You drop your schedule when the president of the United States says he is coming.

More realistically Abrams did not want to appear on the same platform as Biden, who has fallen so deep into a hole that it would take a cave rescue team to find him.

So, forget the Bulldogs, go Minutemen.

Although Attorney General Healey has not officially announced her candidacy for the Democrat nomination for governor, she will automatically become the favorite once she does.

She is a progressive who is far better known than her two opponents, has a two-term record as attorney general, has raised a ton of money and could become the first woman and openly gay governor elected in Massachusetts.

Currently the other two Democrats running are state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz of Boston and Harvard professor Danielle Allen.

With Healey in the race, it is likely that they would eventually drop out of the race the way former state Sen. Ben Dowling of Pittsfield did. Dowling, the first to get in the race, was the first to drop out.

So, Healey has nothing to lose and a lot to gain by inviting Biden to come to Massachusetts. She is a well-established Trump antagonist, having filed some 50 lawsuits against Trump when he was president. Most went nowhere but they helped weaken Trump, which was the point.

And despite his train wreck of an administration, Biden still has three years left on his term, so it makes good sense for a governor to be on good terms with him.

As all but crowned as the Democrat nominee, Healey would face conservative Republican Geoff Diehl, a Trump supporter, in the November election, which could make for an interesting race.

Healey, a good progressive Democrat, is a solid Biden supporter who is already campaigning against Trump.

No sooner did Biden give his speech in Atlanta, than Healey was out with a statement praising Biden and echoing what he said, even the parts that were untrue.

“Did you hear President Biden’s speech in Atlanta today?” Healey asked in a fundraising email to potential campaign donors. “He traveled to the cradle of the civil rights movement to outline the urgent need to protect our constitutional right to vote and the integrity of our elections.

“There’s no question that our democracy is under threat. One year ago, armed insurrectionists launched a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol,” she said.

“The former president and his cronies are still spreading lies about the integrity of our elections and initiating sham audits.

“Republican legislatures across the country are passing dangerous restrictions on the right to vote that disproportionately target black, Latino and Indigenous people,” she said.

“One of my top priorities this year is advocating for voting reform. We need legislative action to prevent election sabotage and protect the freedom to vote” as “a first step toward healing our democracy.”

Joe Biden could not have said it any better.

Healey, as the new leader of the Democrat Party in the state, may not be able to heal our democracy, but she sure could help heal old Joe.

And unlike Abrams and Georgia, Healey could welcome Biden and give the sad and confused old guy a much-needed hug.

Peter Lucas is a veteran Massachusetts political reporter and columnist.

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Catholic Memorial, Xaverian boys battle to 1-1 tie

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Catholic Memorial, Xaverian boys battle to 1-1 tie

CANTON — By now, every hockey player, coach, parent and Zamboni driver in Massachusetts is well aware of the fact there will not be a Super Eight tournament this season.

So, as a way to recreate a similar atmosphere, the Catholic Conference and its member schools decided to get a little creative, and host a “Showcase,” with three games taking place back-to-back in the same facility.

Based on how things shook out at the Canton Ice House Sunday, it looks like they made the right choice. In the opening showdown of the afternoon, which also featured some late-game controversy, Catholic Memorial ended up skating to a heart-stopping 1-1 draw with rival Xaverian.

“(It was) really fun,” said Xaverian coach David Spinale. “Lot of energy in the building. Chris Kuchar from Malden, it was his idea. We all supported it, and we just said: ‘Let’s find a location, where we could do kind of a game to game to game (structure),’ like this.”

Despite the frigid temperatures, hundreds of fans made their way to Norfolk County to take part in the events, and they were treated to a defensive stalemate in the first game.

Both Catholic Memorial (6-1-1) and Xaverian (7-1-1) struggled to get anything going offensively for the entirety of the opening period, with quality chances coming few and far between.

This held true until the latter stages of the second stanza, when Finn Burke found himself in possession of the puck behind the Xaverian net. As he scanned the ice for a teammate, the defenseman spotted Connor Fryberger skating alone in the slot, and fed a pass his way.

Fryberger proceeded to slap a shot into the lower corner of the cage, giving Catholic Memorial a 1-0 edge with 5:38 to play in the period.

Desperately needing an equalizer later on in the third, Xaverian drew even behind the efforts of junior right winger Joe DiMartino, who registered his fourth goal of the season with 8:43 remaining in regulation.

Although Catholic Memorial was whistled for a critical tripping penalty with 2:49 left, Xaverian was unable to capitalize on the man-advantage as the Knights forced overtime.

Neither program managed to strike in the extra session, at least, not until there were about 6.5 seconds remaining, when Nick D’Olympio started one final 2-on-1 rush. The Rockland native fired a shot off the pad of Xaverian goaltender Brendan Flanagan. The puck then bounced over to Fryberger, who tipped it home for what appeared to be a game-winning goal. However, the referees waved the play off, saying it came after time had expired.

“It hit off (the goaltender’s) pad, and I batted it out of the air,” said Fryberger. “It could’ve been a buzzer-beater, but it was too late… I thought I had it in time, adrenaline pumping. I don’t know.”

Braden O’Hara and Max Lockwood were credited with assists for Xaverian.

“I couldn’t really tell,” Spinale said when asked about the final sequence. “I thought I heard the buzzer, then it went in. But again, I’m biased.”

On a day where the Knights were missing multiple key players, Tyler Hamilton stood out for Catholic Memorial, as he notched an assist.

“We showed up today with guys that play hockey and we played hockey,” Catholic Memorial coach Larry Rooney said. “We played a good game of hockey, and I’m proud of the guys.”

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Bruins place Karson Kuhlman on waivers

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Bruins place Karson Kuhlman on waivers

The Bruins placed reserve right wing Karson Kuhlman on waivers on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Kuhlman, who signed with the B’s as a free agent out of Minnesota-Duluth in 2018, has a goal and an assist in 19 games this year. He’s got 7-8-15 totals in 75 career NHL games.

The move suggests that Trent Frederic and/or Nick Foligno are close to being activated off injured reserve. Foligno appeared to have dodged a serious injury after getting tangled up with an opponent and awkwardly falling on a net-front play in the B’s victory in Tampa on January 8. He resumed skating last Friday. Frederic suffered an upper body injury in Washington on Jan. 10.

Oskar Steen, meanwhile, has been in the lineup for the past eight games since being called up from Providence. He’s got a goal and an assist and, in Saturday’s physical 4-3 wn over Nashville, he dished out six hits.

We’ll find out at 2 p.m. Monday if a team puts a claim in on Kuhlman, who has a salary of $725,000 and will be a restricted free agent in the summer.

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