Talking points newsletter

Mass. jobless rate up, Verizon loses customers, flying car debuts, more

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen.
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen.Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

Welcome to Talking Points. Like Gronk at the White House, we’re excited to be here with today’s business news. Mass. jobless rate is up a tick. The I.R.S. is turning to private debt collectors. Bill O’Reilly is getting a $25 million severance. Verizon is losing cell customers to its competitors. And Jon Chesto has the scoop on a new book about Boston’s failed Olympic bid. Here’s all that and the roundup of today’s news for Thursday, April 20.

Chesto means business

Going for the gold: What can we learn from Boston’s flirtation with Olympic glory?

It’s a logical question given the millions of dollars and countless hours that business leaders invested in the ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of the 2024 Olympics.

This time, it’s the foes doing the asking. No Boston Olympics cofounder Chris Dempsey and Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist wrote a book about Boston’s experience, also titled “No Boston Olympics,” with a launch event planned for April 28.

The book is a comprehensive recap, albeit one told from a particular perspective. Among the tidbits that emerge: If the bid hadn’t collapsed, it’s unclear how long Dempsey’s group could have lasted on its shoestring budget.

The villains aren’t clear cut, though the International Olympic Committee doesn’t get a flattering portrayal.

The heroes are many. The authors single out Boston city council members for raising tough questions, including Tito Jackson, now running against Marty Walsh for mayor. Meanwhile, they don’t go lightly on the incumbent mayor and his role in giving Boston’s bid the traction to be picked by the US Olympic Committee.

One warning Dempsey hopes Paris and Los Angeles can heed as they vie for the 2024 Games: the problems inherent in the “boosters’ dilemma.” Certain elements of a bid that can be good for the host community, such as taxpayer protections, can also hurt that city’s prospects with the IOC.

There’s also a broader lesson, one that extends far beyond Olympics debates. For major urban projects, a broad consensus should be sought early on. The entire city should be invited to the table, not just those with seats because of their connections.

Jon Chesto is a Globe reporter. Reach him at jon.chesto@globe.com and follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.

Executive summary

Stocks are up:US stocks rose about 174 points Thursday, driven by earnings reports and after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pledge the US will cut taxes and avoid a government shutdown.

Mixed Mass report: The state jobless report was less rosy. Massachusetts' jobless rate inched up to 3.6 percent in March, as employers added just 200 jobs. The sector-by-sector report can be found here.

The jobless rate increased from 3.4 percent in February, according to the state Office of Labor and Workforce Development. It remains well below the 4.5 percent national unemployment rate. The paltry job gains in March compared with increases of 10,100 jobs in February and 13,000 jobs in January. 

On the national front:  People collecting unemployment checks fell to a 17-year low in the second week of April, a sign of a healthy labor market.

The number collecting checks fell by 49,000 to 1.98 million, the least since April 2000. Meantime, there were 10,000 new jobless claims for the week ended April 15, bringing the seasonally adjusted new claims to 244,000.

Can you hear me now?: Yes, I think they can. Verizon, that is.

Rivals T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T have been boasting in ads of their superiority to Verizon, long seen as the industry standard. Now, the once unimaginable has happened: Verizon reported its first quarterly loss of cell phone subscribers. The company lost more than 300,000 customers, and its wireless business revenue fell 5 percent. Verizon is trying to win back customers with an unlimited data plan it rolled out in February.

Walmart lowers grocery prices: Walmart, the world's largest retailer is also a grocer. And its battle to undercut Amazon, Target and other rivals on grocery prices is paying off for US consumers.

According to the Wall Street Journal: The price of groceries fell 1.3 percent last year, the greatest decline since 1959. Operating profits for US supermarkets declined about 5 percent last year.

Serious debt: The I.R.S. is hiring private companies to track down debt deadbeats, a job it has so far handled itself.

Consumer watchdogs are concerned about the new practice. The Education Department effectively fired one of the collection companies for deceptive practices. Supporters say it could collect $2.4 billion over the next 10 years.


Trending pick

Wiley O'Reilly: Ousted Fox prime-time host Bill O'Reilly  could receive up to $25 million in severance , equal to one year's salary. The New York Times reported O'Reilly and Fox paid $13 million to settle claims of sexual harassment against the former "O'Reilly Factor" host, allegations O'Reilly denied.


Line items

F.C.C. eases TV ownership rules:
GOP led vote will make mergers easier -- Bloomberg

Sanofi Genzyme slapped with patent suit:
Amgen unit Immunex sues over eczema drug -- Boston Business Journal

White House, GOP at odds over Obamacare vote
Trump expects House vote next Tuesday -- Bloomberg

Want to get away? Do it in a flying car:
$1 million vehicle debuts in 2020 -- Reuters

Time's "most influential" made in Massachusetts:
Chef Barbara Lynch and Harvard geneticist George Church -- Boston Globe and Boston Business Journal

Celgene expands in Cambridge
Leases leases 40k square feet in former Amgen space -- Boston Business Journal




Seeing justice done: Social media giant Facebook has been the target of public outrage for allowing toxic posts on its site. Most recently, it has come under fire after a video was posted on Easter Sunday showing the murder of an elderly Cleveland man. Facebook has promised to do better.

In today's Globe, columnist Hiawatha Bray had some ideas. He proposes increasing the penalties against people who post videos depicting or live-streaming crimes. People would get extra years in prison, just as they would if convicted of a hate crime.
But how would Facebook find these offensive videos or live streams? There’s a Seattle company, Dextro, founded by a former top official at local company iRobot. The technology uses artificial intelligence to recognize video and live stream content in real time. It can distinguish between someone holding a football and someone holding a gun, and notify Facebook. Sound overwhelming? Facebook could prioritize newly posted videos or live streams. Facebook users also can help. If you see something, don’t share it. Report it to Facebook.


This Talking Points newsletter is compiled by Edward Mason. Follow him on Twitter at @EBMason. If you liked what you’ve read, please tell your friends tosign up.