The figures will show the Americans who have lost and will lose their livelihoods as common victims of the most vicious public health crisis in 100 years, as well as the sick and more than 73,000 people who have died so far.
The prospect of a prolonged economic recession will have important political implications. It is already threatening to dampen memories of a booming economy that President Donald Trump intended to carry for a second term. It could also provide an opening for alleged Democratic candidate Joe Biden who helped bring the country back from the Obama administration’s last economic crisis.
Every day is showing signs that what initially looked like temporary layoffs could turn into permanent layoffs. GE, Airbnb and United Airlines, for example, announced cuts to thousands of positions this week as business dries up. Discouraging news about the wider penetration of the virus raises the possibility of new peaks of infection that could further complicate the path to full recovery.
The emerging reality that the “rocket” as a President-predicted rebound is unlikely may be behind Trump’s increasingly rampant statements about an emergency that he says will soon be over.
“This is really the worst attack we have ever had. It’s worse than Pearl Harbor. It’s worse than the World Trade Center, ”Trump said on Wednesday.
Trump also called on schools to open and cut a nurse visiting the oval office who observed that personal protective equipment had been “sporadic” in hospitals.
The economy changes the electoral equation
The worsening economic news will add a new dimension to the shock of the November presidential elections between the president and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Biden.
Trump is already under heavy pressure over his erratic handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his initial assurances that a disease that has now infected more than a million people in this country is not a threat.
Economics has generally been an area in which Trump has received majority support during his three years in office. The president’s base is as firm as ever. But persuaded voters will now have two new questions to answer in the election: Is Trump the best candidate to get the country out of an extended duel with Covid-19 and restore the economy that has been shattered by the pandemic?
A Monmouth University poll this week found that Biden widened his national lead over the president to nine points. Other polls have also shown the former vice president ahead of time.
The president insisted on Wednesday that he could not be blamed for the economic plunge linked to the virus and argued that it was the ideal choice to bring back the good time to return.
“I have built the biggest economy – with a lot of great people – that we have ever had, and I will rebuild it again,” promised Trump.
“We are going to have a big economy very soon. Much earlier than people think. Much sooner. “
“Breathtaking” job losses
The economic damage is already almost inconceivable and it will be exposed in two series of what should be a horrible number of jobs on Thursday and Friday.
First, weekly employment data on initial jobless claims – the measure that has recorded the terrible number of weekly layoffs that have now exceeded 30 million people as the economy has entered a suspended animation.
To end the week, the Trump administration is prepared for what may be the most disastrous unemployment figures since the Great Depression. The economists interviewed by Refinitiv expect an unemployment rate of 16%. It is possible that 10 years of job gains were wiped out in just a few months.
One of the president’s best economic advisers, Kevin Hassett, has prepared the country for unemployment up to 20%. This is more than 15 percentage points higher than the 50-year low of the unemployment rate that Trump celebrated just a few weeks ago.
The desperate economic situation accentuates the dilemma between public health and preserving basic livelihoods that Trump seems to have already resolved.
California Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that 4.1 million people have already lost their jobs in his state.
“The numbers are breathtaking and it is alarming,” he said.
Trump calls Americans to be “warriors”
Trump is now openly campaigning for the country to open, despite studies showing that tens of thousands of people could die in new disease epidemics.
“We must be warriors. We can’t keep our country closed for years, “said Trump. “I think people won’t support it, actually. I don’t think our people will support it. “
But despite widespread protests by conservative groups against governors who keep their states closed, polls suggest that many Americans are wary of resuming a normal life.
Almost two-thirds of those surveyed in the Monmouth poll were concerned that states would start lifting the restrictions too quickly. And only 33% share Trump’s implicit opinion that preventing the economy from going into a deep and prolonged downturn is more important than preventing people from getting sick.
The initial economic trauma of the closings is likely to be exacerbated by sobering facts about the state of the pandemic. While cases are plunging in the hardest hit areas like New York and New Jersey, they are actually increasing in many states, but have not peaked.
Perhaps the United States will be lucky and be spared from new, widespread pandemic hot spots. But science suggests that states that are reopening in the absence of robust testing and traceability programs will experience a spike in cases that could cause a second economic shock wave. Given the incubation period of the disease, it will take several weeks before the impact of the relaxed restrictions begins to manifest itself in serious illnesses.
Many returning states fall short of the 14-day period of consecutive infection rates recommended by the White House before opening.
In Texas, for example, where GOP governor Greg Abbott has allowed businesses such as restaurants to reopen at much reduced capacity, 1,000 new cases of coronavirus were reported on Wednesday.
If new infections emerge over a wider footprint than the previously most affected areas on the coast and in the city, the consequences for the economy could be even more serious.
Service jobs in the restaurant, recreation and travel industries are unlikely to recover when the public is wary of outings.
And the increase in infections could lead to another blow in the health sector, which has contributed to recent job growth, but has been hammered in recent months, with elective surgeries and routine appointments having been canceled.