As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, references are often being made to war. It is true that today there is hardship, a great sense of uncertainty, and fear. C.S. Lewis told an incoming class at Oxford in 1939 – on the cusp of World War II – that war makes more obvious the permanent human condition, which is to live in the shadow of mortality.
However, this is NOT war. No one is attacking us with weapons. No known nor hidden enemy is trying to destroy our communities. COVID-19 is a natural phenomenon, made more dangerous by a globalized world. This fact makes all the difference. COVID-19 is something that we face as a community. Thus, we must solve this as a community, not with weapons, but with common efforts and goodwill.
Every Friday, I receive a newsletter called Aloha Good News. It is an uplifting collection of real-life stories of people doing good. In these unprecedented times, there is now an outpouring of companies doing extraordinary good ranging from large multinational conglomerates to smaller privately-held companies.
The French luxury house LVMH has converted its fragrance operations for Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy into the manufacturing of hand sanitizer. The company has donated 12 tons of sanitizer across Paris’s 39 public hospitals. They expect to produce another 50 tons this week and will continue this effort for “as long as necessary.” It should be added that LVMH made a significant financial contribution to the Chinese Red Cross back in January as COVID-19 began its march. LVMH’s luxury rival Kering made a similar contribution.
Beauty companies Coty and L’Oreal have also shifted production toward hand sanitizer. Coty is supporting medical and emergency personnel in the U.S., and L’Oreal is providing sanitizer to French hospitals, pharmacies and grocery stores. Further, they are freezing all receivables owed by small and medium businesses (e.g. salons) and making faster payments to their suppliers.
Alcohol companies are also contributing to the sanitizer shortage. Pernod Ricard (e.g. Absolut, Mumm and Glenlivet) has converted production in both Europe and the U.S. to make substantial donations. On the craft side, Atlanta-based Old Fourth Distillery has done the same.
Athletic brands Nike and Under Armour have made financial contributions of $15 million and $2 million, respectively, to support cash-strapped causes in their local communities. Nike also made financial contributions to Chinese causes in January, and Under Armour is also encouraging at-home fitness through donation challenges via its MapMyRun platform.
Apparel company Inditex, parent of Zara, has shifted production from clothes to medical masks. Inditex has donated 10,000 masks in their home country of Spain and expects to soon donate another 300,000, and they are working toward providing medical gowns as well. At the grass roots level, Project Runway winner Christian Siriano responded to a plea by New York Governor Cuomo by having his sewing team make and donate masks.
Footwear companies are also contributing. Allbirds is offering free shoes to healthcare workers, and Keen is giving away 100,000 pairs of shoes to healthcare workers and those who have lost jobs.
Lastly, on the hard goods side, Dyson is retrofitting its production lines in order to make and contribute ventilators. The emerging fitness company Cubii is donating compact elliptical trainers to those who need a way to stay active while sheltering in place.
One could point out that these companies may be creating brand goodwill. However, I want to believe that these and countless other companies are acting altruistically.
We should ask what we can do to help ourselves and each other to rise to this challenge not only like an army, but as a community.
Headlines of the Week
The Federal Reserve today announced a massive second wave of initiatives to support a shuttered U.S. economy, including buying an unlimited amount of bonds to keep borrowing costs low and setting up programs to ensure credit flows to corporations and state and local governments. The Fed will buy Treasuries and agency mortgage-backed securities “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning and effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions and the economy,” and will also buy agency commercial mortgage-backed securities, according to a statement. The Fed had said a week ago it would buy at least $500 billion of Treasuries and $200 billion of agency MBS.
Apparel & Footwear
Hong Kong’s Fung family and Singapore’s GLP Group have made a HK$7.2 billion (US$928 million) offer to privatise the 114-year-old global merchandise supply chain manager Li & Fung at a price premium of 150 per cent, as they seek to take advantage of the worst economic and stock market downturn in a decade caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Golden Lincoln, controlled by Victor Fung Kwok-king and William Fung Kwok-lun, has teamed up with GLP, a global operator and investor in logistics, real estate, infrastructure and finance, for the privatisation. GLP will buy all the 5.78 billion shares not owned by the Fung family at HK$1.25 each. The family will not be buying any more Li & Fung shares. “In light of global economic uncertainties, the company’s transformation will involve execution risk and the associated benefits will require a longer time to materialise,” chief executive Spencer Fung, who is also Victor Fung’s son, said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange after market close on Friday. “The offerers believes that the transformation of the company will be more effectively implemented away from the public equity markets.”
Shares of Guess Inc. rallied 7% in the extended session Wednesday after the retailer reported adjusted fiscal fourth-quarter earnings that were above Wall Street expectations and said it was in a “strong” position to face the impact of COVID-19. Guess said it earned $79.6 million, or $1.18 a share, in the quarter, compared with $23.2 million, or 28 cents a share, for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019. Adjusted for one-time items, Guess earned $82.3 million, or $1.22 a share, compared with $58.2 million, or 70 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue rose 1% to $842 million, the company said. Analysts polled by FactSet had expected adjusted earnings of $1.12 a share on sales of $851 million. “We closed the year with strong liquidity and a solid balance sheet, which positions us well to navigate through the current coronavirus crisis,” Chief Executive Officer Carlos Alberini said in a statement.
Fashion chain Laura Ashley has said it has filed for administration after rescue talks were thwarted by the Covid-19 outbreak. It is the latest company to fall victim to the pandemic after Primark was forced to close one in five stores and airline Flybe collapsed. The retailer announced it is suspending trading after reviewing the impact of coronavirus on its cashflow. A statement said the business had been doing well during the seven weeks to March 13, with trading up 24% on the same period a year earlier. ‘However, the Covid-19 outbreak has had an immediate and significant impact on trading, and ongoing developments indicate that this will be a sustained national situation’ the statement read. Main shareholder MUI Asia Limited will not be able to step in with the money which is needed in time, as was previously hoped.
Tailored Brands is shutting its e-commerce fulfillment centers and limiting or deferring all discretionary spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The menswear giant, whose brands include Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, said it is taking “aggressive and prudent actions to ensure the business has ample liquidity to weather this uncertain period.” As a “proactive measure” and with an “abundance of caution,” on March 16, it drew down $260 million from its revolving credit facility. On an earnings call with investors, Tailored Brand executives said the company is significantly reducing inventory buy plans, capital expenditures, advertising spend and store and headquarters overhead costs. “These actions will meaningfully reduce cash outlays,” said Jack Calandra, executive VP, CFO and treasurer, Tailored Brands. “We also have contingency plans for deeper cuts if our stores are closed beyond March 28. We believe the aggressive actions we’ve taken and the contingency plans we’ve developed will allow us to weather this period of uncertainty.”
Athletic & Sporting Goods
Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. said in a filing that traffic and demand have sunk since the company reported fourth-quarter earnings. The athletic retailer has closed its stores for two weeks, effective March 18 through April 2. E-commerce options will be available during this period, including contact-less curbside pickup. Full pay and benefits will be offered to workers during this time. The company also warned of potential supply chain disruptions impacting the second quarter. Dick’s Sporting Goods stock has slumped 53% over the past year while the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.47% is down 15.3% for the period.
Action sports apparel maker Boardriders Inc. said it sold its Xcel wetsuit line. The buyer was ZG Collective, which is focused on the outdoor, snow and cycling industries. The company is based out of Colorado. Boardriders CEO David Tanner said in a statement the sale is in line with Boardriders’ broader strategy, which focuses on its larger portfolio brands. Those include Quiksilver, Billabong, Roxy, DC Shoes and RVCA among others. He said Xcel accounts for less than 1% of Boardriders’ overall sales.
The nation’s largest recreational boat and yacht retailer is digitally connecting boat-owners with service providers. MarineMax Inc. has acquired Boatyard, an on-demand digital boating services platform. Through this technology acquisition, MarineMax says it seeks to save customers time. The new MarineMax Customer Experience Platform will be led by Boatyard Founder and CEO Nathan Heber, who will become president of Boatyard at MarineMax. The Boatyard digital platform will include a range of on-demand services to streamline the boating experience by qualified service providers with a few clicks on a smartphone. Boatyard enables boat-owners to curate services and communicate with service providers.
Cosmetics & Pharmacy
Rite Aid hosted an Analyst Day to outline its new strategy and plan for growth. Heyward Donigan, president and CEO of the Camp Hil, Pa.-based retailer, noted that the plan is focused on using Rite Aid’s strengths to grow EBITDA and reduce its debt load. “Rite Aid is a business in the midst of a turnaround and it is time for a radical change — our RxEvolution,” Donigan said. “This is not business as usual at Rite Aid. We have the unique opportunity to serve a growing customer base and strengthen the power of our iconic brand.” She noted that since she took the reins in August, the company has been working to build a foundation for its turnaround, including changes to its management team, reductions in its leverage ratio and a focus on execution and innovation.
Ulta Beauty recently announced fourth-quarter earnings results that ended its fiscal year on a positive note. Sales growth sped up during the holiday shopping period despite the weak demand for makeup products across the industry. The retailer’s wider 2019 was marked by a few struggles, though, including slowing customer traffic gains and reduced profitability. In a conference call with Wall Street analysts, CEO Mary Dillon and her team discussed those hits and misses while giving the most detailed outlook possible for a 2020 year that’s likely to include significant sales pressures from the COVID-19 outbreak. Below are a few highlights from the conference call.
Discounters & Department Stores
Walmart announced on Thursday that it will hire 150,000 associates through the end of May to work in stores, clubs, distribution and fulfillment centers, according to a press release. The roles are temporary, but the company said that many could become permanent positions. The retailer is accelerating its hiring process from a two-week application cycle to 24 hours for key roles like cashiers and stockers, per the release. Walmart also will be giving $365 million in cash bonuses to hourly workers for their work during “an unprecedented national health crisis.” Full-time, hourly employees employed as of March 1 will receive $300 and part-time hourly associates will receive $150.
Macy’s has closed all of its banners through March 31 as part of a broader effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to a press release. Closures include Macy’s full-line department stores, Backstage, Bloomingdale’s, Bluemercury, Market by Macy’s and its outlet stores. The company’s Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury brands will continue selling online, the company said. Macy’s said it would provide benefits and compensation for affected employees but did not outline details.
J.C. Penney has withdrawn its earnings outlook due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. The department store chain announced Friday morning that it is not providing an updated outlook at this time. Earlier in the week, on Wednesday, Penney said it would close all of its stores across the country until April 2, at least, to try to help halt the spread of the new coronavirus. It did not clarify whether or not it would be paying workers during this time. A spokesperson declined to comment.
Kohl’s has withdrawn its earnings outlook for the current quarter and fiscal year, as it grapples with the hit it will take from the coronavirus pandemic. The department store chain will shut its stores nationwide, effective 7 pm local time March 19 until April 1, at least, to try to help halt the spread of COVID-19. Kohl’s also announced Thursday that it has fully drawn its $1 billion unsecured credit facility to increase its cash position and “preserve its financial flexibility,” in the midst of so much uncertainty. The company said it is working to significantly reduce expenses and built-up inventory. It has temporarily suspended share buybacks. Further, it said it is evaluating its dividend model.
Emerging Consumer Companies
Athletic Brewing Company, maker of a non-alcoholic craft beer, announced the closing of a $17.5 million Series B funding round. Investors include TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, sports business reporter Darren Rovell’s Tastemaker Capital Partners, and Wheelhouse Partners. A portion of the new funding is being used to purchase a San Diego brewery once occupied by Ballast Point Brewing Company. The company was founded in 2018 and is based in Connecticut.
Billie, the women’s personal care brand that launched with shaving products, expanded outside of razors, shaving cream, and body care to introduce dry shampoo, face wipes and lip balm. The company will offer its face wipes as a subscription, and lip balms and dry shampoo will be sold à la carte. All products are under $15. Billie has raised $35 million in venture capital funding. In January, Procter & Gamble announced its intention to acquire the company.
Grocery & Restaurants
President Donald Trump and his administration on Monday urged Americans to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus by limiting group gatherings to 10 or fewer people and avoiding restaurants and bars. The White House Coronavirus Task Force, however, stopped short of ordering curfews, quarantines or the closures of businesses. “Avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more people. Avoid discretionary travel. And avoid eating and drinking in bars, restaurants and public food courts,” Trump said in an afternoon briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pointed out in the briefing that the new guidelines, dubbed “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” did include fine print that says: “In states with evidence of community transmission, bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate should be closed.”
Citing the ongoing uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, McDonald’s said Tuesday it may offer some franchisees rent deferrals as restaurants close or see traffic plunge. The global fast-food giant also warned that the “negative financial impact” to its results cannot be reasonably estimated at this time because it doesn’t know the duration and scope of disruptions to its business. McDonald’s is working with franchisees around the globe to support financial liquidity, according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday. Franchisees operate about 90% of McDonald’s restaurants globally. In the United States, “substantially all” locations are operating with only drive-thru, takeout or delivery options, the filing said. Some locations may have limited hours.
As American consumers hunker down to stem the spread of coronavirus, they may well add fuel to the already-growing grocery and food delivery sales—and give new hope to the struggling meal kit company Blue Apron. Blue Apron saw its stock surge more than 70%, to $6.55, on Tuesday as investors bet that its service will regain some favor with consumers who are “social distancing.” That gain was noteworthy considering Blue Apron had seen its shares plunge to $2 in late February—from $150 in June 2017—after it reported another year of losses and declines in sales and customers.
Impossible Foods raised $500 million in a round that closed late last week, and part of it will go towards fighting volatility related to the coronavirus pandemic, the company disclosed. “With what’s happening in the world, it’s important to reassure our customers that we are built to withstand short-term shocks,” chief financial officer David Lee said. “We’re able to stand tall. We have the ability with long-term investors.” They now include the South Korean firm Mirae Asset Global Investments, which led the latest round along with existing funds including Khosla, Horizons Ventures and Temasek. It also included several new celebrities, like Mindy Kaling and Peter Jackson, who join a long roster of high-profile backers such as Serena Williams and Jay Z. After being founded eight years ago, the startup’s total funding now tops $1.3 billion. The company did not disclose the terms of the deal, including Impossible’s overall valuation.
Home & Road
Williams-Sonoma Inc., a specialty retailer of high-quality products for the home, reported that the company brought in net earnings of $166.05 million for the current quarter which ended Feb. 2, which is 1.5% better than the company’s net income of $155.34 million reported for the same time last year. Operating income for the fourth quarter came in roughly the same as for the fourth quarter of last year at $203.69 million, a 1.41% increase year-over-year. Basic earnings per share for the fourth quarter was $2.13 compared to $1.95 in last year’s fourth quarter. For the quarter, Williams-Sonoma posted comparable brand revenue growth of 7.6%, with positive comparable revenue growth in all brands, including West Elm at 13.9%, Pottery Barn at 6.7%, Pottery Barn Kids and Teen at 7.9%, and Williams-Sonoma at 3.3% The company closed all stores this week, and they will remain closed through the beginning of April due to the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. The company declined to give guidance on fiscal 2020 because of uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus.
Many home furnishings retailers are temporarily closed while others that sell home furnishings alongside far more essential categories are limiting their hours and trying to stay in stock with eggs and toilet paper, leaving home goods suppliers in a sea of uncertainty but trying to remain as nimble as possible. “We have heard from some of our customers that they are deferring orders to May,” said Barry Goodman, vice president of national accounts at Commonwealth Home Fashions. “Some retail stores are actually temporarily closing. Drop shipping is continuing. Things are changing almost by the hour and we are looking at all contingency plans, nothing concrete at the moment.” Evan Dash, CEO of the housewares company Storebound, said retailers have been taking “prudent steps” to prioritize essential shipments while holding back on discretionary items.
February furniture and home furnishings store sales increased 3.8% over the same month a year ago, perhaps the last solid month of gains before the coming impact of the coronavirus as some stores have now initiated temporary closings and begin to report weakening sales. U.S. sales for the sector grew to an estimated $9.95 billion from $9.59 billion in February 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce report released Tuesday. Sales decreased 0.4% from a preliminary estimate for $9.99 billion in January, a figure revised up from the previously reported $9.75 billion. Sales for all U.S. retail and food services industries combined for a 4.3% increase over February last year to an estimated $528.1 billion and decreased 0.5% from revised January sales.
The office of the U.S. Trustee objected to the deal Art Van Furniture struck with liquidation consultants Hilco and Gordon Brothers, alleging it lacks transparency and that the liquidators are aligned with the interests of the term lender, not the estate and its creditors as a whole. Indeed, the liquidators are, in essence, the term lenders now, through related entities. The trustee is asking the U.S. Bankruptcy Court here to deny the agreement at a hearing slated for March. 20, a move that would follow Art Van’s suspension of going-out-of-business sales announced the day before due to the impact of the coronavirus. In the March 18 objection, U.S. Trustee attorney Andrew Vara noted Art Van entered into the consulting agreement with a joint venture formed by Hilco and Gordon Brothers on March 4, a few days before the Top 100 company’s March 8, bankruptcy filing. Also, immediately before the filing, an entity controlled by the consultants, HGB AV Lending, acquired all $175 million of the debtors pre-petition term loan debt from KKR Capital. The trustee said the terms of that agreement haven’t been disclosed, including how much the liquidators paid to acquire the debt.
Jewelry & Luxury
LVMH and Tiffany still have reasons to stick by their agreement to merge, including Tiffany’s position as “a global brand with substantial growth opportunities with wide price points, broad appeal, and strong brand equity” and LVMH’s reputation as an acquirer of good faith, Cowen & Co. analysts said on Thursday. But, given its global nature and the way it has undermined commerce, the COVID-19 pandemic, has introduced uncertainty that could nevertheless quash it, they also warned in an emailed note.
The fashion world has Paris, Milan, London, and New York. Film has Venice, Cannes, Berlin, and Toronto. The watch industry has Basel, Geneva, Zurich, and Davos. Or rather, it had—the coronavirus and the Swiss government, which banned gatherings of more than 100 people on March 13, has shuttered the big watch fairs. On Feb. 27, the organizers of Watches & Wonders Geneva, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, canceled the fair, a high point of the horological calendar since 1991, scheduled for April 25-29. Last year the fair featured 30 exhibitors and attracted 23,000 visitors.
The 2020 edition of JCK Las Vegas, America’s largest jewelry trade show, as well as sister show Luxury, will be postponed until later in the year, according to show organizer Reed Exhibitions and the Reed Jewelry Group. Reed said it was still working out new dates for the show and hopes to have news on that “shortly.” The move was made as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
Since debuting at JCK Las Vegas in 2018, Lightbox Jewelry, De Beers’ lab-grown diamond brand, has made steady progress on its mission to introduce lab-grown diamond fashion jewelry to the masses. In November of that year, Lightbox staged its first pop-up event at the Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center in New York City. The brand ranked fifth in product-listing ads in a 2019 survey of paid search advertising for lab-grown-related keywords. And as of this year, Lightbox has benefited from increasing consumer awareness of man-made diamonds—and retailers’ growing support for the category.
Office & Leisure
Books-A-Million is expanding its existing buy-online-pick-up in store (BOPIS) offering with a new, free curbside pick-up option. This service allows Books-A-Million customers to shop online, alert the store when they arrive, and pull curbside to have their purchase brought directly to their vehicle by a store associate. Chief Books-A-Million rival Barnes & Noble offers a BOPIS service but does not currently provide curbside pickup. The curbside offering will be available at nearly all Books-A-Million locations. Post-purchase communication via email and text message will provide status updates of when orders are ready for pick-up and contact information to alert the store upon arrival. Executives from Books-A-Million stressed both the convenience and health of its customers when explaining why the retailer is rolling out curbside pickup. Books-A-Million, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., is the second-largest chain of bookstores in the U.S., operating over 200 stores in 32 states and an e-commerce site.
The moral of this toy story is to support local retailers all year round, and not just during a time of crisis, small business owners urge. With school closures as a result of the widespread coronavirus outbreak, parents have been on a buying spree to get toys and workbooks to keep their little ones occupied at home. And with Amazon delivery delays as items go out of stock due to increased demand, customers are calling up toy stores in their neighborhood, ordering online or getting same-day delivery. Mary Arnold Toys, a family-owned toy store that’s been in business for 85 years on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, delivers items like books, games and puzzles nationwide. In the past week, employees have noticed business has been on par with the holidays, their busiest time of year, as people splurge hundreds of dollars on puzzles, Rubik’s cubes and science workbooks. On Sunday, the store saw upward of 50 walk-in customers, and online sales have increased by 10 percent in the last week. Others, like nationwide specialty toy franchise Learning Express, have seen a 25 percent sales increase online compared to the same time last year.
Video game retail giant GameStop called itself “essential retail” in a memo to employees, instructing them to keep stores open — despite local governments nationwide issuing lockdowns amid the coronavirus crisis. “Due to the products we carry that enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home, we believe GameStop is classified as essential retail and therefore is able to remain open during this time,” the memo said. GameStop also allegedly told employees to encourage police officers to call corporate headquarters if they wish to attempt to enforce closures.
Technology & Internet
Best Buy has seen an uptick in sales of devices to make it easier to work from home. Think keyboards, monitors, webcams and laptops. This week, an increasing number of companies around the U.S. have begun telling their employees to work from home if they can. In addition to computing devices, Best Buy said sales of freezers and refrigerators have also been brisk in recent days. That’s not surprising as many consumers have become stockpiling food and other supplies as many schools are canceling classes and health experts emphasize the importance of social distancing in the days and weeks to come.
Amazon is hiring an additional 100,000 employees in the U.S. to meet the surge in demand from online shopping amid the coronavirus outbreak, the company said. The company is looking to add extra full-time and part-time positions for warehouse and delivery workers. Through the end of April, it will raise pay for these employees by $2 per hour in the U.S., £2 per hour in the UK, and approximately €2 per hour in many EU countries. Amazon encouraged employees in other industries whose jobs were “lost or furloughed” as a result of the coronavirus to apply, including members of the hospitality, restaurant and travel industries.
To keep up with surging demand for essential goods, Amazon announced Tuesday that it would no longer accept other items at its warehouses until April 5. The unprecedented action will immediately affect millions of third-party sellers and vendors, who have come to rely on Amazon’s warehouses to get their products into the hands of consumers. Amazon customers can expect greater availability of things like soap and dog food, and potential shipping delays when it comes to less pressing items like clothing and electronics. For now, Amazon is still delivering nonessential products that are already stocked in its warehouses. It just won’t accept replenishments from vendors and sellers for the next three weeks.
Amazon is on the prowl yet again — and this time it’s eyeing a handful of supermarkets owned by New York Town grocer Fairway Market place, The Post has discovered. The tech juggernaut run by Jeff Bezos is bidding on 4 stores owned by the bankrupt Fairway in New York and New Jersey, including just one in Brooklyn, residence to the preferred waterfront mega-industry in Crimson Hook, sources informed The Write-up. The auction, which kicked off Monday and ongoing into Thursday, will come as the coronavirus delivers the region to its knees, resulting in recession fears. But COVID-19 has also been a boon for Amazon’s online buying organization as folks hunker down at home.
Finance & Economy
The coronavirus crisis has almost certainly ended the longest U.S. expansion on record and pushed the economy into the start of a short slump, according to analysts polled by Reuters who gave a median 80% chance of recession this year. The virus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, has spread around the world, crippling global economic activity through lockdowns and business shutdowns. That has triggered financial market panic, ending the longest bull run in stocks in history, including the biggest one-day drop for Wall Street since the 1987 crash.
Americans are starting to lose their jobs in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and economists expect it’s only going to get worse from here. And quickly, too. A government report showed 281,000 Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week. It was a sudden 33% jump over the week before and the biggest percentage increase since 1992. But next week’s report is likely to be far worse, according to Goldman Sachs economists. They predict the report will show 2.25 million Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits this week — eight times the number of people who filed last week and the highest level on record.