The U.S. unemployment rate has surged to 14.7% as the coronavirus pandemic and measures taken to slow its spread led to the loss of millions of jobs. The unemployment rate is now at the highest level since the Great Depression.
These terrible unemployment numbers were widely expected, and the stock market was able to shake off the bad news on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.42%) was up 1.5% at 12:20 p.m. EDT. Boeing (BA -1.53%) stock rose after the CEO predicted a May production restart for the 737 Max, and Apple (AAPL 1.89%) stock was up as the company diversifies its production away from China.
Boeing to restart 737 Max production in May
Boeing's 737 Max has yet to be cleared by regulators to return to the skies, but the company is planning to restart production of the plane nonetheless. CEO David Calhoun told Fox Business News on Friday that the company is aiming to begin building the plane again sometime this month.
In late April, Boeing had indicated that it would resume 737 Max production at low rates this year, with production slowly ramping up throughout 2021. The company also announced output reductions for some of its other planes, including the 787 and 777.
While Boeing may successfully get production of the 737 Max up and running in May, there's still uncertainty around when the plane will be ready to carry passengers. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that the pandemic would likely push back approval to August or later, with stay-at-home orders slowing the process.
Boeing stock was up 2.9% by early Friday afternoon, but shares are still down about 66% from their 52-week high. The company recently raised $25 billion through a bond offering, and it believes it now has enough cash to survive without government aid.
Apple turns to Vietnam for AirPods manufacturing
Apple relies on China to make many of its gadgets. That dependence became a problem when the coronavirus shut down factories in that country earlier this year, roiling the company's supply chain. Mass production of Apple's upcoming 5G iPhones has reportedly been pushed back about a month due to the pandemic issues.
While the iPhone remains Apple's most important product, AirPods are one of its fastest growing ones. The wireless earbuds have been a huge hit, with the company reportedly generating around $6 billion of revenue from AirPods last year. In Apple's latest quarter, the wearables, home, and accessories segment was the only hardware segment that produced any revenue growth.
With the pandemic making it clear that a heavy dependence on Chinese manufacturing was a liability, Apple is now reportedly moving some AirPods production to Vietnam. The Nikkei Asian Review reported on Friday that Apple plans to make around 30% of its classic AirPods in Vietnam this quarter. That amounts to 3 million to 4 million units. Production of the high-end AirPods Pro are not included in the plans.
The pandemic may have been the catalyst for this move, but mounting trade tensions between the U.S. and China are making it riskier for Apple to depend too heavily on China. While diversifying production may raise Apple's costs, it would be far more costly to be caught flat-footed by unexpected trade developments.
Shares of Apple were up 1.7% by early Friday afternoon, putting the stock just 6% below its 52-week high.