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Business

U.S. hiring races to record high in May, layoffs abate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. hiring surged to a record high in May and layoffs declined as businesses reopened, but the signs of improvement in the labor market have been overshadowed by a resurgence in COVID-19 cases that has forced some enterprises to shut down again.

The Labor Department said on Tuesday in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, hiring accelerated by 2.4 million jobs to 6.5 million, the highest level since the government started tracking the series in 2000. The hiring rate jumped to an all-time high of 4.9% from 3.1% in April.

The report followed on the heels of news last Friday that the economy created a record 4.8 million jobs in June. Nonfarm payrolls have rebounded after a historic plunge of 20.787 million in April as the labor market reeled from the closure of businesses in mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But the upswing in hiring has been overtaken by record spikes in new COVID-19 infections in large parts of the country, including Arizona and the highly populated states of California, Florida and Texas, which have forced several jurisdictions to scale back or pause reopenings, and send some workers back home.

Hiring in May was driven by the accommodation and food services industry. There were also increases in the healthcare and social assistance and construction businesses.

Layoffs and discharges tumbled 5.9 million to 1.8 million in May. The accommodation and food services industry accounted for the bulk of the decline in layoffs. There were also decreases in the retail sector.

The layoffs and discharge rate dropped to 1.4% from 5.9% in April. The layoffs rate hit a record high of 7.6% in March.

The government also reported that job openings, a measure of labor demand, increased 401,000 to 5.4 million on the last business day of May. The job openings rate rose to 3.9% from 3.7% in April.

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Business

Coronavirus pain drives Big Oil's dash for record debt

LONDON (Reuters) – The world’s top oil and gas companies locked in cheap borrowing rates to raise a record amount of debt in the second quarter of 2020 and boost cash reserves as a buffer against a collapse in revenues because of COVID-19.

The dash for debt piles pressure on company balance sheets and the issue is particularly acute for BP (BP.L) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L). Already burdened by high levels of borrowing, they also face the disruption of a major shift towards renewables and low-carbon.

The world’s top seven energy firms – BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), Chevron (CVX.N), Equinor (EQNR.OL), Total (TOTF.PA) and Eni (ENI.MI) – raised $60 billion in debt in the quarter, nearly half of the $132 billion in oil and gas sector borrowing over the period, Refinitiv data showed.

BP, which had $78.5 billion in debt by the end of March, raised the most at nearly $16 billion, using for the first time hybrid bonds that place less strain on the balance sheet as the principal is not required to be repaid. (Graphic: The great debt rush, here)

Oil majors’ revenues are expected to drop sharply in the second quarter after movement restrictions to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 led to a steep drop in fuel consumption.

Benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 averaged below $30 a barrel in the second quarter when it hit the lowest in two decades.

Exxon, the largest U.S. oil company, is expected to report a second consecutive quarterly loss, while Shell said its fuel sales in the second quarter fell by around 40%.

COVID RECOVERY?

The coronavirus crisis has battered oil company shares, which underperformed the broader indexes, as concerns over their ability to withstand the short-term shock added to uncertainty linked to the world’s shift to renewable power.

The share price drop dealt a double blow to the companies as the ratio of their debt to total market size, known as gearing and an indicator of financial health, is set to rise.

Higher gearing can impact a company’s credit ratings and increase its cost of borrowing.

Jason Kenney, analyst at Santander, said oil majors were likely to see debt levels spike in 2020.

“This is not necessarily all bad given the current low interest rates and the chance to increase liquidity cheaply,” Kenney said.

“That said, gearing and leverage levels will likely move out of target ranges before moving back to more usual levels over the coming years.” (Graphic: Big Oil’s rising debt IMG, here)

The debt crisis coincides with Shell and BP’s plans to shift from fossil fuels in the coming decades, details of which they are expected to unveil later this year.

BP acted to reduce its debts with the $5 billion sale of its petrochemical business in late June, helping it reach its $15 billion asset disposal target.

But the strain on its balance sheet could lead its CEO Bernard Looney to cut the company’s dividend when it reports its second quarter results on Aug. 4.

Redburn analyst Stuart Joyner said he expects BP to reduce its dividend by 33%.

Although the debt levels of BP and its rivals are set to rise, the companies do not face severe distress with current oil prices of above $40 a barrel, Joyner said.

“As long as you believe that there is some sort of recovery from COVID, there is no problem with the debt,” Joyner said.

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World News

Russia charges space chief's aide Ivan Safronov with treason

The former journalist is accused of passing military secrets to an unnamed NATO power.

Russian security forces have arrested a former journalist who works as an aide to the head of Russia’s space agency on treason charges, accusing him of passing military secrets to an unnamed NATO power.

Footage released by the FSB security service on Tuesday showed Ivan Safronov being arrested outside his Moscow flat by armed plain-clothes agents who searched him before putting him into a van.

Safronov, who has covered military affairs for two national newspapers, faces up to 20 years in jail if found guilty.

His trial is expected to be held behind closed doors because of its sensitive nature.

Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, said the case against Safronov was not linked to his work as a media adviser to Dmitry Rogozin, the agency’s director-general. Safronov started work there in May.

Rogozin told the TASS news agency Safronov did not have access to secret information.

The FSB Security Service accused Safronov of working for an unnamed foreign intelligence service.

“Safronov, carrying out tasks for one of the NATO countries’ intelligence services, gathered and handed over to its representative state secrets and information about military-technical cooperation and about the defence and security of the Russian Federation,” the FSB said in a statement.

Lawyer Oleg Eliseyev said Safronov was at the FSB’s detention facility, but he had not yet been given any access to his client.

Safronov previously worked as a journalist for the daily newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti, and former colleagues took to social media to decry his detention.

Remarks from the Kremlin

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he did not believe the charges against Safronov were related to his previous work as a journalist, which he praised.

“But, unfortunately, such accusations have been made. We know that our counter-intelligence service has a lot of work, many concerns, and they are doing a very good job,” said Peskov.

Citing a legal source, TASS reported last year that prosecutors wanted to bring a civil case against Kommersant for disclosing an unspecified state secret.

The Russian online news portal the Bell said at the time that an article which Safronov had worked on had subsequently disappeared from Kommersant’s site.

The article, which remains unavailable, said Egypt had signed a deal with Russia to buy more than 20 Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jets.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo subsequently threatened Egypt with sanctions if it went ahead with the purchase.

Safronov said he was forced to quit Kommersant last year after the newspaper’s publishing house took issue with an article which suggested that the chairwoman of the upper house of parliament might leave her post.

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World News

Israel pushes back creation of sovereign wealth fund as gas revenue trickles in

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has pushed back the creation of a sovereign wealth fund because tax revenue from natural gas has not yet hit the minimum needed to begin investing, and fund managers have not yet been chosen, Bank of Israel Deputy Governor Andrew Abir said on Tuesday.

Israel discovered huge deposits of natural gas in the east Mediterranean a decade ago and major production began in 2013.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said tens of billions of dollars raised from taxing natural gas sales would be invested abroad via a sovereign wealth fund, with proceeds brought home for education, welfare and other services.

The fund, aimed at staving off an overheated currency from the sudden explosion in national wealth — known as the Dutch disease — was supposed to begin in 2018, but political turmoil and a slower stream of revenue have caused delays.

The minimum needed to begin investing – 1 billion shekels ($290 million) – will not be reached before the end of 2021, said Abir.

“Part of that is because the companies involved were able to offset some of the tax against the investments that they have made and it slowed down the process,” he told Reuters.

At a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday, Abir said political stalemate with three elections in 2019 and 2020 had also delayed the formation of a committee to oversee the fund.

He said tax income may not be released for wealth fund investments, to be managed by the central bank, until 2023.

Abir’s predecessor, Nadine Baudot-Trajtenberg, who spearheaded efforts to form the fund, has said the central bank will likely take bigger risks with the gas money than with its $147 billion in forex reserves.

“It will have a higher-risk profile like simple assets, like stocks and corporate bonds,” she said.

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World News

Greece relocates group of young refugees to Portugal

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece moved 25 unaccompanied minors from overcrowded migrant camps to Portugal on Tuesday as part of a relocation programme to EU countries.

The boys, all aged between 15 and 17, had lived in refugee camps on outlying Greek islands. They have no relatives in Europe.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing conflict and poverty countries used Greece as a springboard to European countries in 2015 and 2016, when an EU-brokered accord with Turkey all but halted the flow, trapping many in Greece.

At least 5,200 migrant children from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa currently live in Greece, many of them in harsh conditions.

Tuesday’s transfer was part of a voluntary plan to relocate minors from Greek camps to other European countries amid concerns about the impact of the coronavirus on vulnerable groups.

“Europe is doing its duty for those who have the greatest need, and require protection,” said Irene Agapidaki, special secretary responsible for unaccompanied minors at the Greek migration ministry.

She was speaking from Athens airport after bidding farewell to the children.

Another group of 25 children is expected to fly from Athens to Finland on Wednesday. Greece is in the process of relocating about 1,600 unaccompanied minors who have no family members in Europe. Some have already been sent to other countries

Deputy migration minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos said that in addition to relocating minors, authorities were also pursuing a voluntary return scheme for individuals who were in camps on the Greek islands and who had arrived by Jan. 1 2020.

Koumoutsakos said financial incentives were being offered to those interested in returning home. “We expect the first flight in this complex project to be to Iraq in coming weeks,” Koumoutsakos said.

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World News

WHO to travellers: Keep an eye on 'anywhere and everywhere' Covid-19

GENEVA (REUTERS) – The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday (July 7) urged travellers to wear masks on planes and keep themselves informed as Covid-19 cases surge again in some countries, prompting new restrictions in places like Australia.

Spokesman Margaret Harris urged people not to be caught off-guard by resurgent local epidemics and quarantine measures, saying: “If it’s anywhere, it’s everywhere, and people travelling have to understand that.

“This virus is widespread and people have to take that very, very seriously.”

The WHO said last month that it would update its travel guidelines ahead of the Northern Hemisphere summer holidays but they have not yet been released.

In the meantime, travellers should “remember things will change, or may well change”, Dr Harris said at a Geneva briefing.

“We’re seeing a lot of upticks, a lot of changes in different countries, countries that had successfully shut down their first transmission are seeing second upticks,” she added, mentioning Australia and Hong Kong.

Lockdown measures were reimposed in Australia’s second biggest city on Tuesday, confining Melbourne residents to their homes unless undertaking essential business, as officials scramble to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

The WHO’s previous guidance for travellers has included common-sense advice applicable to other settings such as social distancing, washing your hands and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Dr Harris also proposed on Tuesday wearing a mask on planes, a measure which is already a requirement of many airlines.

“If you are flying, there is no way you can social distance in a plane, so you will need to take other precautions, including using a face covering,” she said.

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Fitness

Protection against the Coronavirus: large majority against the abolition of the mask duty

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has given an abolition of the corona-related mask duty in the shops a clear rejection. It has broad support from the parties and the countries.

“Wherever in the public life of the minimum distance can be guaranteed, are masks an important and, from today’s point of view, also more indispensable tool,” said government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday in Berlin.

This was necessary in order to keep infection numbers low, and to protect the others and themselves. “So Whether on the Bus, in the subway or in retail to the obligation to wear masks.”

This Position is shared across party and national boundaries. The CDU leadership as well as the Chairman of the CSU and the SPD-Markus Söder and Saskia esque – as well as various state governments spoke out against a repeal of the mask duty.

Such a step, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Minister of Economics Harry Glawe (CDU), had suggested in the ‘Welt am Sonntag’ for his country.

Seibert added that the retention is just now in the holiday time is important. “Regions that may have had to pay is now very low, now get the feed from other Parts of the country.”

The new mobility is to be welcomed. “But they must go hand in hand with the observance of the rules, which have served us so far in the past months in the fight against this pandemic as well, namely distance, hygiene rules, and that is precisely where it is needed, a mask of duty.”

“Corona makes no holiday”

Similar to the CDU-top argued. “Corona makes no holiday,” said General Secretary Paul Ziemiak after the last video discussions before the summer break.

The Bureau and the Executive Board of the CDU were unanimously of the opinion that, despite the positive development of the Corona-infection situation in Germany is no reason, from the mask of duty, or about the commandment of keeping ones Distance to depart.

“Mask-wearing is sexy,” said Ziemiak, came to the press conference with a mouth-nose protection in the party’s color of Orange.

Photo gallery: 10 tips to protect yourself against viruses and bacteria

Söder stressed in front of a video conference of the CSU Board, you’ll have to loosen the mask of duty or abolish it. This was one of the very few instruments when it comes to protection against the Coronavirus. The Mask has proven itself in daily life.

The SPD-Chairwoman Saskia esque said in Calw, the Corona-a threat not to be overcome by far. It was more urgently needed to keep my distance and pay attention to the hygiene rules, so that there is no second shaft and a second Lockdown.

“Since we are all in a high level of responsibility. That’s why I strongly recommend to stay in the mask of duty.” The Co-Chairman Norbert Walter-Borjans, said on Sunday evening on ‘live’, “the mask to wear in the shops is a disgrace, but a reasonable imposition”.

Federal health Minister Jens Spahn urged caution.

“I understand the impatience and the desire for normality. But the Virus is still there. Where in enclosed spaces, the necessary distance is not always secured, the everyday mask commandments,” wrote the CDU-politician on Sunday evening on Twitter.

Only the AfD-Chairman Tino Chrupalla called, the mask duty is finally abolished. “The effect of mouth-nose masks are not only medically controversial, the masks are also an increasing threat for the local retail sector”, he argued on Monday.

He could well understand that a lot of citizens with mask reluctantly went shopping. The revenues would then be generated on the Internet.

Mouth protection is abundant and work the shopping lust

A spokesman for the trade Association HDE supported this reasoning. “We note that masks inhibit the shopping desire of the customers,” he said of the “Rheinische Post” (Tuesday). The decision, whether the mask is compulsory to stay there or not, would have to meet with politicians and professionals, not the trade.

Many Federal States opposed the abolition. “Wearing a daily mask that helps to reduce the risk of Infection,” said Minister-President Malu Dreyer (SPD) in Mainz.

“Masks are a rather small effort with a big effect, and – in connection with contact restrictions and high standards of hygiene – an important, even scientifically proven tool in the fight against the Virus.”

A spokeswoman for the government in Baden-Württemberg also stated: “The mask of duty remains a Central part of our strategy.”

The same proclaimed Hessen and Berlin. “For Berlin, the abolition of the obligation to the mouth-nose protection in the retail sector at the current time plays no role,” informed the Senate on Monday.

“Right now, where more and more was loosened, the distance and hygiene rules, as well as the mouth-nose protection all the more important to prevent the spread of the Virus.”

On Sunday, the States of Brandenburg, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein had rejected a timely at the end of the obligation to the mouth-nose cover or in shops.

The Rostock infections Loge Emil Reisinger supported this Position. “The danger of a second wave is still not banned. I hope that we can get there, but we need to be careful,” said Reisinger on Monday the German press Agency. The mask duty is an expression of these precautions.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)

*The contribution of “protection against the Coronavirus: large majority against the abolition of the mask of duty,” is published by FitForFun. Contact with the executives here.

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World News

Thandie Newton recalls working with Tom Cruise on 'nightmare' Mission: Impossibl

Thandie Newton has recalled the ‘nightmare’ experience she had shooting for Mission: Impossible 2 with Tom Cruise.

The actress, 47, starred alongside Tom’s Ethan Hunt as Nyah Nordoff‑Hall in the sequel released back in 2000, but it sounds like it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Reflecting on her time on set and what it was like to work with Hollywood star Tom, 58, Thandie described her co-star as a ‘dominant individual’ and how rehearsing with him had made her feel ‘insecure’.

In an interview with Vulture, Thandie admitted she was ‘never asked’ to return for another Mission: Impossible movie, while confessing she was ‘so scared’ of Tom.

She opened up about what it was like on set and recalled one time she and Tom had been rehearsing a questionable scene on a balcony and he was getting frustrated with her.

‘I don’t think it was a very well-written scene, I get angry with him. We’re frustrated with each other. Tom was not happy with what I was doing because I had the sh**tiest lines.’

The frustration only grew because director John Woo reportedly didn’t speak English on set and Tom decided to try the scene again – him reading Thandie’s lines and Thandie reading his.

‘It was the most unhelpful… I can’t think of anything less revealing. It just pushed me further into a place of terror and insecurity. It was a real shame,’ she said.

‘I remember calling Jonathan Demme. I described the night to him: “A nightmare.”

‘As I was describing it, it was clear that I thought I was the big f**king problem and Jonathan was like, “Thandie, shame on you for not backing yourself.”

‘He was really sweet. And then Tom called and I thought, “Oh, this is it. The apology.” No, he was just like, “We’re going to reshoot this next week.”‘

Metro.co.uk has reached out to Tom’s rep.

Thandie’s comments come as preparations for Mission: Impossible 7 are currently underway.

Filming had begun for the follow-up film ahead of lockdown, but production was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic and the new movie’s release date has since been pushed back.

Mission: Impossible 7, which will see Tom return as Hunt, won’t be released in the US until November 2021 – four months after its originally scheduled release of July 2021.

Mission Impossible: 8 will also be delayed, with the sequel not hitting cinemas until November 2022.

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World News

Man's fingers chopped off while making cocktail sausages at meat factory

A meat processing company has been fined £310,000 after two workers each lost a finger on the sausage line.

Darren Dunn, 37, and Ian Qua, 22, were both left scarred for life following the horrific accidents while working at the factory in Prestwick, Ayrshire.

Mr Qua was mixing meat for cocktail sausages while employed by Browns Manufacturing when he reached through a gap and got his hand entangled in the revolving mixer in January last year.

Mr Dunn was working on the Lorne sausage processing line at what was then the Hall’s of Scotland factory when he lost the tip of his right-hand ring finger in August 2016. He had been trying to clear a blockage by pushing meat into the mincer when a rotating screw caught his digit.

Hall’s of Scotland/Browns Manufacturing Limited pleaded guilty at Hamilton Sheriff Court on Friday to failing to ensure the dangerous parts of the machinery were inaccessible and not providing training for their staff.

Sheriff Douglas Brown fined the company £120,000 for the 2016 incident and £190,000 for the 2019 incident.

He said: ‘Both of these machines were capable of inflicting serious injury on any employee putting their hand near to them.

‘It was submitted that both were isolated incidents but the fact that there was a second incident after the first must raise questions about health and safety practices.

‘Both of these accidents were entirely avoidable had a safety guard been in place.’

In both cases, the workers were not given sufficient training and safety measures were not in place.

The company has since made changes to both machines and updated its training procedures.

Depute fiscal Paula Russell said Mr Qua was hurt while ‘discharging the sausage meat’.

She told the court: ‘He was standing facing the operator’s panel using the two-handed controls to open the discharge door and transfer meat.

‘He reached round to the right-hand side of the control panel towards the discharge door of the blender with his right arm.

‘Due to the gap created when the discharge door was open, his fingers met with the revolving paddles of the blender.

‘Mr Qua immediately removed his hand with the amputated finger remaining within the mixer and ran downstairs to the supervisor’s office.

‘Due to shock, he was unaware his finger had been amputated.’

He had to have physiotherapy and counselling for persistent nightmares after the incident.

Ms Russell told the court Mr Dunn was injured after taking over from a colleague who left his position to deal with something else.

She said: ‘He was advised to start the line when the buzzer sounded and did so.

‘Shortly after, he noticed that the meat was not processing through the line properly and that meat had begun to pile up suggesting a blockage in the mincing screw.

‘He lifted the lid in the mincing screw and attempted to clear the blockage with his hands while the machine was still running.

‘His hand came into contact with the rotating screw and he lost his right-hand ring finger.’

Defending both companies, Barry Smith said: ‘The most important thing to say is that all those associated with both Halls and Browns Manufacturing wish to record serious regret that these accidents occurred and gave rise to injuries to two valued employees.

‘Safety measures were in place but these were not sufficient. These breaches clearly disclose deficiencies of the guarding and steps were immediately put in place to address the breaches that had been brought to light.

‘Lessons have been learned and they take the health and safety of employees very seriously and regret these breaches.’

Alistair Duncan, head of the health and safety investigation unit, said in a statement: ‘Both of these workers were left permanently disfigured by incidents that were foreseeable and easily avoided.

‘Since these incidents, the company has installed guards and interlocks on these machines, as well as improved their training.

‘Hopefully this prosecution and the sentence will remind employers that failure to fulfil their obligations can have serious consequences.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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World News

People seek relocation to suburbs due to coronavirus

(CNN)When the pandemic hit, Lina and Challie Stillman found themselves working from their 600-square-foot, one-bedroom condo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with no end in sight. By April, the walls were closing in.

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To take the edge off of feeling cooped up, they took weekend drives to Connecticut and soon began looking at houses. In May, they bought a five-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot home with a pool in Brookfield, Connecticut, for $675,000, a lot less than it would cost to buy a bigger apartment in the Brooklyn neighborhood they still love.

    “We needed to get out of the city for awhile,” said Lina Stillman. “It was a perfect storm. It was concerns about health, combined with low [mortgage] interest rates, combined with the fact that we are working from home and it was getting ugly. But I’m not leaving Brooklyn completely. That is impossible for me to do.”

    Lina and Challie Stillman want to live in New York CIty. Just not right now. So they bought a home in Connecticut.
    So they kept the apartment they own in Brooklyn and are considering renting it out short-term. The Connecticut home isn’t so much a weekend escape for them, she said, as it is an alternative full-time home.
    “We thought it would make more sense to buy a little further out and have nature and more space and have the best of both worlds,” said Challie Stillman. And if they have to be in the city for work it is only an hour and a half away by train.

    If real estate activity in second-home areas around New York are any indication, the Stillmans are not alone. The coronavirus pandemic has not only pushed apartment dwelling New Yorkers to seek more space and nature outside of the city, it has also untethered them from their downtown workplaces as companies embraced remote working. That has led to a phenomenon Jonathan Miller, a real estate appraiser and consultant, calls “co-primary” homes.

    The Stillmans bought this 5-bedroom house in Brookfield, Connecticut as an alternative to their 600-square foot Brooklyn condo, which they plan to keep, just in case.
    “For the affluent, instead of trading up in the city or getting a second seasonal home, it is an equal home,” said Miller. “This is changing the way the people think about a primary residence and we are seeing people lengthen the tether that connects work and home.”

    The rise of ‘co-primary’ living

    A home in Connecticut, the Hudson Valley or the Hamptons may typically be used as a vacation home, said Miller. But for the next year or so, many owners are living in their second home, while an apartment in the city could be used as a place to stay on the few days a month when they need to be in an office or meet clients.
    “You move to the Hudson Valley and once every two weeks, you have a two-hour commute,” he said. “The rest of the time you’re commuting from your bedroom to your desk to the refrigerator.”
    In New York City, signed contracts to purchase a condo in June were down 74% from last year, according to a report from brokerage firm Douglas Elliman and appraiser Miller Samuel.

    The pool at the Stillman's new house in Connecticut.
    In the Hamptons, signed contracts were up 89% last month from the year before, according to the report.
    For those who considered buying in the Hamptons, the pandemic has pushed them along, said Robert Nelson, executive managing director of sales for Brown Harris Stevens, making sales activity there brisk.
    “Between $1 million to $2 million they can find a decent house here while in Manhattan that’s a two bedroom apartment,” said Nelson.

    This five-bedroom home in Sag Harbor, New York, did not sell when it was on the market last year. It sold during the pandemic for $4.8 million as buyers looked for more space.
    Previously, buyers were mostly looking at homes as an investment, now more than before the priority is on buying a home they can use immediately.
    Rentals have been difficult to come by because of an increase in demand, said Nelson, but also because regular renters have opted to actually use their homes this year.

    This home in Bridgehampton, New York, listed at $5,400,000, sold for $4,626,000 in June.
    That has pushed some renters into buying for themselves, said Nelson. “They don’t want to be at the whim of others trying to find a place.”

    The rush to buy

    Connie Strait, who has sold Connecticut real estate for 40 years, said she’s never seen such a rush of out-of-state buyers as she has over the past two months. She says her business tripled and she isn’t able to help all the people calling to look at homes.
    Her buyers are coming from New York, and they have money. One morning she had three calls about a million-dollar waterfront property. “That never happened to me before.”
    This has made the market more competitive for the local families she is working with.
    “You pull into a driveway, there are three out-of-state cars,” she said. “They get defeated and know from the looks of it that home will go quickly over asking price.”
    The inventory has been slowly coming back to market, she said, but there have been three times as many homes going into contract. This is leading to multiple offers on many homes, she said, with some buyers immediately bidding over the asking price and some waiving a building inspection to appeal to a seller.

    Agent Connie Strait put this house on the market just before the pandemic for $690,000 and it sold for $670,000. Strait said it would go for closer to $700,000 now.
    The buyers are looking for similar things, said Strait, a home office where they can shut the door behind them, and a yard so they can be outside. “Anything with a pool goes immediately.”
    What remains to be seen, said Miller, is how long this effect will last. Most companies are not announcing employees can work from home for the 5- to 10-year timeline around which most people make real estate decisions.
    “Does the zeitgeist change the minute there is a vaccine?” said Miller. “Employers and employees saw the benefit of working remotely, but that doesn’t suggest it will be fully that way and there are plenty of careers that you need to do in person.”

      What is clear now is that people will be staying in places like the Hamptons well past Labor Day, Nelson said.
      “Seasons don’t matter much anymore and we’ve all learned how Zoom works,” he said.
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