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Coronavirus live updates: Gig workers get unemployment in Senate bill, jobless claims soar amid outbreak

This is CNBC’s live blog covering all the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak. All times below are in Eastern time. This blog will be updated throughout the day as the news breaks. 

  • Global cases: More than 480,446
  • Global deaths: At least 21,571
  • US cases: At least 69,197
  • US deaths: At least 1,046

The data above was compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

10:40 am: Gig workers for companies like Uber, Lyft would get unemployment benefits under Senate stimulus bill 

Gig workers won a landmark protection in the $2 trillion stimulus bill that passed in a unanimous 96-0 vote in the Senate Wednesday. The bill now moves to the House, which is expected to vote Friday.

The bill would allow gig workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers, as well as freelancers and the self-employed to be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. It would also add $600 per week for up to four months compared to what beneficiaries normally receive. 

The protection also marks a win for the companies that employ gig workers and rely on them for their businesses to function. —Lauren Feiner  

10:08 am: Dow rallies 600 points, heads for 3-day winning streak 

Stocks traded sharply higher on Thursday even after the release of record-breaking initial jobless claims sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 650 points, or more than 3%. The S&P 500 gained nearly 3% while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 2.6%. Those gains put the major averages on track for a three-day winning streak. —Fred Imbert, Pippa Stevens,  Eustance Huang 

9:41 am: Coronavirus stimulus checks will come within three weeks, Mnuchin says 

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at the White House on March 25, 2020, in Washington, DC.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that people will start getting relief checks within three weeks, as the country reels from the coronavirus pandemic.

Mnuchin spoke to CNBC the morning after the Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus package intended to blunt economic damage from the spread of the coronavirus. The House is expected to vote on the legislation Friday.

The massive relief bill offers direct cash payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples, with $500 added for every child, based on 2019 tax returns for those who filed them and 2018 information if they have not.  The benefit begins to phase out for individuals making $75,000 in income and ends completely for those making $99,000 or more. —Kevin Breuninger

9:35 am: Stocks jump for a third day, shaking off a record surge in jobless claims because of the coronavirus

Stocks opened higher on Thursday even after the release of record-breaking initial jobless claims sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 500 points, or more than 2%. The S&P 500 gained more than 1.5% along with the Nasdaq Composite. 

Boeing, JPMorgan Chase and Intel drove the Dow’s gains, rising at least 3%. Industrials and health care were the best-performing sectors in the S&P 500 as the both traded more than 2% higher. —Fred Imbert, Pippa Stevens,  Eustance Huang 

9:30 am: Trump’s claim that malaria drug can treat coronavirus gives hope, but little evidence, it will work

Hopes for a coronavirus treatment were boosted after President Donald Trump announced at a White House press briefing last week that two anti-malaria drugs were a “game-changer” that have shown “very, very encouraging results.″ 

But scientists and infectious disease experts say Trump’s claims about the drugs — chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — may be a bit premature. While some small studies give doctors reason to hope, large clinical trials are needed to determine whether the drugs are truly effective in fighting COVID-19, they say.

To pass the FDA’s muster, and win approval for widespread use, chloroquine and azithromycin will need to undergo rigorous clinical trials with thousands of participants — not a couple dozen, according to the agency’s guidelines. —Berkeley Lovelace Jr. 

9:18 am: Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus package includes payroll tax delay for employers

The Senate’s $2 trillion stimulus package designed to contain the economic damage from coronavirus will postpone payroll taxes for employers, a key source of revenue for Social Security and Medicare.

The bill passed late Wednesday will allow companies to pay their 2020 payroll taxes through the end of 2022. They will have to pay 50% by the end of 2021. 

The Senate legislation, which has been described as the largest rescue bill in history, must be approved by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and signed by the president in order to become law. The House is expected to vote on the matter on Friday. —Tucker Higgins

8:57 am: Udacity offers free tech training to laid-off workers 

Online learning platform Udacity is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by offering free tech training to workers laid off as a result of the crisis.

On Thursday the Mountain View, California-based company revealed that in the wake of layoffs and furloughs by major U.S. corporations, including Marriott International, Hilton Hotels and GE Aviation, it will offer its courses — known as nanodegrees — for free to individuals in the U.S. who have been let go because of the coronavirus. The average price for an individual signing up for a nanodegree is about $400 a month, and the degrees take anywhere from four to six months to complete, according to the company. —Susan Caminiti

8:47 am: Ford plans to restart production at ‘key’ auto plants starting in early April

8:30 am: Weekly jobless claims soar to 3.28 million

Americans displaced by the coronavirus crisis filed unemployment claims in record numbers, with the Labor Department reporting a surge to 3.28 million for the week ended March 21.

The number shatters the Great Recession peak of 665,000 in March 2009 and the all-time mark of 695,000 in October 1982. Businesses across the country have shut down amid a policy of social distancing aimed at keeping the virus’s growth in check. Individual states have reported websites crashing amid a rush to file. —Jeff Cox

8:19 am: German employment index hits lowest since Jan 2010

The Ifo economic institute’s German employment barometer fell in March to its lowest level since January 2010, the Handelsblatt newspaper reported, adding that the drop is the biggest since records began in 2002.

“German companies are putting the brakes on personnel planning,” Ifo expert Klaus Wohlrabe said of the data, which the Munich institute calculates monthly for Handelsblatt based on the employment intentions of around 9,000 companies.

“A rise in unemployment will be unavoidable despite short-time work,” Wohlrabe said, referring to a government-backed scheme that allows firms to put workers on shorter hours. —Reuters

8:18 am: Swiss coronavirus cases top 10,000, with 161 deaths

Switzerland has 10,714 confirmed coronavirus infections and 161 people have died of the disease, the Federal Office of Public Health said on Thursday. The numbers were up to date as of 0715 GMT, it said. —Reuters

8:01 am: Dow futures down 300 points as traders brace for jobless claims report

People gather at the entrance for the New York State Department of Labor offices, which closed to the public due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, U.S., March 20, 2020.

Andrew Kelly | REUTERS

U.S. stock futures fell in early morning trading as investors looked ahead to the national weekly initial jobless claims data, which are expected to show a record-breaking spike.

Dow futures indicated an opening drop of more than 300 points at the market open. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq-100 futures pointed to opening losses of more than 1%. National weekly initial jobless claims data will be out 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists are projecting record-shattering numbers—Fred Imbert, Pippa Stevens, Eustance Huang

7:45 am: Fed chief Powell’s message to Americans: ‘The Federal Reserve is working hard to support you’

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told Americans the central bank is working hard to support them during these unprecedented financial conditions. 

“The Federal Reserve is working hard to support you now, and our policies will be very important when the recovery does come, to make that recovery as strong as possible,” Powell said on NBC’s “Today.” 

“Really the message is this: This is a unique situation, its not like a typical downturn. We’ve asked people to step back from economic activity really to make an investment in our public health. They’re doing that for the public good and this bill that’s just passed is going to try to provide relief and stability to those people,” Powell added. —Maggie Fitzgerald

7:23 pm: US cases posting steeper rise than most

In the U.S., the rapid increase in the distribution of coronavirus test kits has likely accelerated the pace of reported and confirmed cases. Cumulative case counts also don’t account for how many patients have recovered or for lags in reporting cases and differences in reporting methods.

Still, researchers say that even incomplete data is critical to current efforts to “flatten the curve” of the spread of the pandemic — from the steep rise in the initial phases to a more gradual increase as efforts to contain the outbreak take effect. —John Schoen

7:00 am: Here’s what’s in the $2 trillion US stimulus bill

The Senate approved an unprecedented stimulus bill, estimated to cost $2 trillion, as Congress tries to lessen the pandemic’s human and economic toll. The chamber passed the legislation Wednesday night as workers face widespread layoffs, hospitals and states starve for resources and businesses small and large worry about their survival. The House aims to pass it by Friday. The bill is designed to offer relief to individuals, the health care system and even an entire corporate sector ravaged by the outbreak. Here’s what’s in it. —Jacob Pramuk

6:57 am: Spain reports over 8,000 new cases as death toll rises

In this handout from the Comunidad de Madrid, health workers prepare to receive the first patients with coronavirus at Ifema exhibition complex on March 22, 2020 in Madrid, Spain.

Comunidad de Madrid | Getty Images

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Spain has risen by 8,578 in the last 24 hours, the country’s health ministry announced Thursday. That takes the total number of cases in Spain to 56,188.

The death toll in Spain rose to 4,089 on Thursday, up from 3,434 the previous day. Spain’s death toll has surpassed China’s, where the official number of fatalities stands at 3,291. —Holly Ellyatt

5:59 am: Iran starts intercity travel ban

Iran has started an intercity travel ban, an Iranian official said in a televised news conference, Reuters reported. The ban comes a day after Iran’s government spokesman warned the country might face a surge of COVID-19 cases. Officials have been critical of Iranians who have ignored appeals to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20. Iran has recorded 27,017 confirmed cases of the virus, and has reported just over 2,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. —Holly Ellyatt

5:40 am: UK retail sales failed to grow in February

A lady shopper with a striped bag outside the window of fashion brand Superdry, on 18th April 2017, in London, England.

Richard Baker | In Pictures via Getty Images

British retail sales failed to grow at all in February, marking their weakest performance since 2013, official figures show. When compared with the same month a year earlier, retail sales in the U.K. for February 2020 remained flat; the lowest year-on-year growth rate since March 2013, the Office for National Statistics said. The lackluster data reflects poor sales even before most retailers were forced to close because of the lockdown due to the coronavirus. —Holly Ellyatt

5:30 am: US envoy blames China for endangering world with coronavirus

The U.S. ambassador to London said China had put the world in danger by suppressing information about the coronavirus outbreak.

“First it tried to suppress the news,” Ambassador Woody Johnson wrote in an article for U.K. newspaper The Times. “Had China done the right things at the right time, more of its own population, and the rest of the world, might have been spared the most serious impact of this disease,” the ambassador said. —Holly Ellyatt

4:50 pm: European stocks decline ahead of upcoming US jobs data

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