*From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, these are the top stories that moved markets and had investors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs talking this week on Cheddar.*
'PORTRAIT OF DESPAIR': Two months ago, the U.S. was enjoying its lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. Today, the country has its highest unemployment rate in 80 years. The April jobs report came in as dismal as expected -- 20.5 million jobs lost in a single month, wiping out all the gains of the last decade. The unemployment rate skyrocketed to 14.7 percent. The pain was not limited to the hospitality and tourism sectors either but broadly felt across all industries and workers. Hispanics, women, and those without a college degree were particularly hard hit. And the layoffs keep coming: over the last two weeks, three of the most prominent tech unicorns — Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft — cut a combined 6,600 positions, in a sign that even some of the most well-capitalized tech darlings are not immune to the spreading economic disaster.
RACE FOR A VACCINE: There have been several recent developments on the vaccine front, particularly from a pair of American pharmaceutical and biotech giants. Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine candidate is now in human trials. The company said the first doses were given to volunteers at several sites in the U.S. Each trial will happen concurrently in the hopes it will cut down on the development timeline. If these trials are successful, Pfizer says the vaccine could be available for emergency use in September. Dozens of other vaccines are also in development around the world: among them, a promising candidate from Moderna that uses a rare mRNA technique. That company announced that the FDA gave it the go-ahead to proceed to Phase 2 trials, a milestone that signifies that small, early trials are showing efficacy. Moderna says it hopes to have a vaccine ready "as soon as 2021." Shares shot up 10 percent on the news.
THE RETAIL APOCALYPSE: Two iconic American retailers went bankrupt in the last week — the first, but likely not the last, to fall amid the pandemic. J.Crew and Neiman Marcus, both teetering on the edge of financial ruin even before the virus, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Neither company says it will liquidate, but rather plan to restructure in an attempt to keep stores open for when stay-home orders lift. Others, like Gap, Macy's, and Nordstrom, are already making their reopening plans public. Gap said it anticipates reopening 800 stores, about a third of its footprint, by the end of the month. And while not a retailer per se, Starbucks may provide a blueprint for other big chains: the coffee giant will have reopened 85 percent of its locations by the end of the weekend with new protocols in place and a focus on to-go ordering.
DISNEY EARNINGS: For almost 20 years, Disney benefited from what appeared to be a bulletproof business model: create a media and entertainment empire by buying up studios and building up franchises to create a flywheel effect with box office juggernauts, merchandise, cruises, theme parks, and streaming content that followed. Then came the coronavirus, which seemed almost tailor-made to hit the House of Mouse harder than any of its competitors. Disney's earnings for the first quarter showed in stark numbers just how bad the pandemic has been for that model. The company said it lost $1.4 billion directly due to coronavirus — and that's only taking into account a couple of weeks in March. The current quarter will be far worse. The biggest impact has been on Disney's theme park and cruise division, which alone lost $1 billion. The one bright spot: Disney+ is a huge success, having gained 55 million subscribers since its launch in November.
ALL ABOARD: Carnival said it plans to resume cruise operations on August 1, a week after the CDC's "no sail" order is set to expire. The cruise giant — the largest in the world and the first of the major operators to publicize its unfinalized plans — is offering some mind-boggling deals to woo cruisers back onto its ships. If you don't mind the idea of being one of the first to set sail, there were $28-a-night fares from Galveston to Cozumel spotted this week — all-inclusive. That's cheaper than the cost of staying home for many people.