The US economy grew by 1.6% in the first quarter of 2021, according to government estimates released yesterday. The figure is equivalent to 6.4% annualized growth and marks the second-biggest quarterly expansion over the past decade, outside of a 7.5% jump last fall that followed near-complete economic shutdowns due to the pandemic. Analysts said the surge was driven by a rebound in consumer spending, fueled by more than $400B worth of recently sent stimulus checks.
initial unemployment claims fell slightly last week to 553,000, the third straight week first-time filings were under 600,000. For context, the prepandemic average was just over 200,000 new claims per week (see data). An estimated 16.6 million people were enrolled in some form of unemployment benefits program as of the week of April 10.
Despite the gains, data from the Labor Department show 8.4 million fewer jobs on payroll compared to February of last year. Analysts expect the economy to add around 500,000 jobs per month over the short term.
NYC Eyes Reopening
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said yesterday the city would aim to fully reopen July 1, lifting restrictions on restaurants, gyms, and all other businesses. A return to normal would mark a symbolic moment for both New Yorkers and the country—America's most populous city was a global epicenter early in the pandemic, registering an average of 800 deaths per day last April.
The city is averaging roughly 1,700 new cases per day, down 70% since January ($$, Bloomberg), reporting about 30 deaths per day. Just over 40% of city residents have received at least one vaccine dose. Many states have either fully or mostly lifted restrictions on businesses and ended outdoor (and some indoor) mask mandates. See your state's status here.
Overall, the US is averaging around 52,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day, more than a 25% decline from mid-April (see data). Deaths continue to decline slightly, averaging around 680 per day. Almost 55% of US adults have received at least one vaccine dose, with almost 40% fully vaccinated; see how your state is doing here.
Finally, US officials urged any Americans in India to leave the country, where cases have spiked to 350,000 per day. The crisis has forced family members to resort to mass cremations for loved ones (see photos).
(Possible) Directed Energy Attacks
Federal agencies are reportedly investigating two possible instances of directed energy attacks on US soil, according to reports that surfaced yesterday. At least one of the incidents was said to be in the vicinity of the White House. While many details are unknown, the incidents mirror a series of suspected attacks on US diplomats in Cuba and China in recent years.
A December report from the National Academy of Sciences concluded focused microwave energy was the most likely culprit for symptoms, including brain fog and acute headaches, reported by diplomatic staff in previous attacks. In line with auditory hallucinations, scientists pointed to the Frey effect—where electromagnetic waves interact with the brain's auditory cortex, among other regions. The central mysteries—who is behind the attacks and how the radiation is generated—remain unsolved, though the former Soviet Union is known to have repeatedly irradiated the US embassy in Moscow during the Cold War.
Separately, the Pentagon warned that US troops may be vulnerable to directed energy attacks on the battlefield.
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Historybook: George Washington becomes first president of the US
(1789); Louisiana Purchase land deal between US and France doubles the size of the US (1803); Adolf Hitler commits suicide in underground bunker (1945); HBD Gal Gadot (1985).
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- George Washington
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