Nearly 1 in 10 businesses still planning layoffs for 2020

On the bright side, some companies initially hurt by the pandemic have reversed early cost cuts

The COVID-19 pandemic has already shuttered swaths of businesses, leaving millions of workers unemployed, and the economic devastation is far from over now that coronavirus infections are spiking again.

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According to a newly-released report from nonprofit think tank The Conference Board, a September survey found that almost one in 10 American businesses are planning for further layoffs during the 2020 calendar year.

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From the poll of 330 executives – who mostly work in large companies – The Conference Board reported that cost-reduction actions are coming within the next three months.

"After six months of adapting to the pandemic, many surveyed organizations respond that they are not done implementing cost-reduction actions," they wrote. "From October through December 2020, 13% of surveyed organizations plan to restructure the organization, 11% plan to cut bonuses, 9% plan to conduct permanent layoffs, and 8% plan to defer pay increases and bonuses."

Furloughs and temporary layoffs represent 3% of the actions planned during the fourth quarter, according to the survey.

There was a silver lining, however.

General views of Disneyland, partially reopened for outdoor dining and shopping after being closed for months due to COVID-19 on July 11, 2020 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

"On the positive side, many organizations have been able to fully or partially reverse some of the cost-cutting actions they had taken at the beginning of the pandemic, specifically around reducing salaries and wages [which were] 25% fully reversed," the group noted.

In the last jobs report ahead of Tuesday's presidential election, initial weekly U.S. jobless claims fell to 751,000 – down 40,000 from the previous week. It was the lowest initial claims report since the week of March 14.

Losses in the intervening period have been monumental, however, and the new claims were still more than three times the weekly average prior to the pandemic.

Initial claims reflect only the number of people laid off recently, not those receiving aid for more than a week.

In total, more than 20 million Americans are still receiving unemployment benefits through state and emergency programs, The Wall Street Journal reported last Thursday.

USA Today noted Monday that while some industries saw success – like the tech industry and e-commerce – restaurant, hotel, entertainment and retail businesses were battered.

Only 19% of organizations had remained open or returned to the workplace by the end of September 2020, the survey reported.

Businesses that had held out through summer, like Walt Disney Co. and ExxonMobil, have recently announced thousands of layoffs.

Although many are planning returns to the workplace by March 2021, a frightening increase in case numbers could derail those dreams.

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The nation set a new all-time high for coronavirus cases confirmed in a single 24-hour period last Friday, reporting just over 100,000 new infections.

The pandemic has killed more than 231,000 Americans.

Congress remains at a standstill over a new economic stimulus bill to provide further assistance to those struggling with the economic impact.