The world this week
Britain’s economy plunged into recession in the second quarter, as GDP contracted by a record 20.4% compared with the previous three months. In the first half of 2020 the British economy was hit twice as hard as America’s and fared worse than Germany, Italy and France. There was a sliver of positive news—growth picked up again in June. That will be of little comfort to those facing the end of furlough. Figures also showed a huge drop in the number of people in employment, and redundancies are at a seven-year high. The government’s job-retention scheme will soon start to wind down, though millions still depend on it.
Come dine with me
The hospitality industry in Britain has been missing all those absent workers. A government scheme to help the industry by subsidising meals in restaurants, pubs and cafés during August was used by 10.5m diners in its first week. Each customer gets up to 10 pounds ($13) deducted from his meal on Mondays to Wednesdays; the restaurant claims the money back from the Treasury.
America’s unemployment rate fell again in July, to 10.2%. Employers created 1.8m jobs, fewer than the 4.8m that were added to the payrolls in June, when lockdowns eased.
With Democrats and Republicans at loggerheads over a new stimulus package, Donald Trump issued an executive order that, among other things, would reinstate the additional unemployment benefits that ceased in July (though at $400 a week rather than $600) and defer the collection of payroll taxes. The order’s intent may be to concentrate minds; the extra benefits depend on contributions from cash-strapped states.
Mr Trump also issued orders banning ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, from America within 45 days and a similar decree curtailing American firms from doing business with WeChat. As with many of Mr Trump’s dictums, the legality of the president’s latest orders is questionable, though they undoubtedly create uncertainty for the companies involved. The share price of WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, was hammered following his pronouncement.