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•  The Associated Press reports that "the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level since the pandemic began, a sign the job market is still improving even as hiring has slowed in the past two months.

"Unemployment claims dropped 36,000 to 293,000 last week, the second straight drop, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the smallest number of people to apply for benefits since the week of March 14, 2020, when the pandemic intensified, and the first time claims have dipped below 300,000. Applications for jobless aid, which generally track the pace of layoffs, have fallen steadily since last spring as many businesses, struggling to fill jobs, have held onto their workers."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "nearly 40% of U.S. households said they faced serious financial difficulties in recent months of the Covid-19 pandemic, citing problems such as paying utility bills or credit card debt, according to a recent poll. About one-fifth have depleted all of their savings. 

"U.S. households are struggling in many ways over a year into the coronavirus pandemic, according to the poll conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Public Radio.

"Nearly 60% of households earning less than $50,000 a year reported facing serious financial challenges in recent months. Of those, 30% lost all of their savings, according to the poll."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that Johnson & Johnson has "placed into bankruptcy its liabilities for tens of thousands of claims linking talc-based products to cancer, hoping to drive a settlement of personal-injury claims that are expected to grow for decades to come.

"The healthcare company said Thursday that a corporate affiliate holding talc-related liabilities had filed for chapter 11 protection 'to resolve all claims related to cosmetic talc in a manner that is equitable to all parties, including any current and future claimants.'

"The chapter 11 filing makes J&J the latest company to turn to chapter 11 as a mechanism to settle large numbers of lawsuits over defective products or other harms."

•  USA Today reports that "a study released recently by SeeLevel HX, a customer experience measurement company, found wait times for receiving a drive-thru order increased by more than 25 seconds in 2021.

"The study classifies the total time customers wait for an order from the moment they enter the drive-thru to the moment they get their order. The study found drive-thru customers waited an average of six minutes, 22 seconds. Last year, it was five minutes, 57 seconds."

According to the piece, "The study found that of the 10 big fast food brands, Chick-fil-A ranked first in order accuracy this year, followed by Taco Bell and a three-way tie between Arby's, Burger King and Carl's Jr.

"The increase in drive-thru times and inaccurate order comes as the U.S. faces a significant labor shortage sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic."

•  CNBC reports that "McDonald’s will test the plant-based McPlant burger created as part of its partnership with Beyond Meat in eight U.S. restaurants next month … Starting Nov. 3, McDonald’s customers in Irving, Texas; Carrollton, Texas; Cedar Falls, Iowa; Jennings, Louisiana; Lake Charles, Louisiana; El Segundo, California; and Manhattan Beach, California, can order the McPlant for a limited time."

The story points out that "the trial is the latest step in McDonald’s cautious march to add plant-based meat to its menu. The company has taken its time to learn more about the longevity of meat substitutes and consumer demand, even as other fast-food chains raced to add the trendy item to their menus."