“A national shutdown is not a sustainable long-term solution,” President Trump told reporters at a briefing Thursday evening, emphasizing that it was time for restrictions to be lifted where the virus has been less prevalent. “I think we will have a lot of states open relatively soon,” he added.
Many governors and health experts caution that if business conditions return to normal too quickly, a second wave of coronavirus infections could spread.
In the meantime, job losses are sure to mount, though perhaps at a slower pace.
“The silver lining with this bad number is that it looks like the wave of job destruction has peaked,” said Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities. “Getting a date for reopening and getting more certainty about reopening is critical.”
Mr. Slok expects the unemployment rate to hit 17 percent this month, up from 4.4 percent in March and higher than any mark since the Great Depression. “These are truly stunning statistics that tell you the severity of the situation,” he said.“Let’s not forget we talked about 200,000 in jobless claims in January and February and now we are in the millions. That illustrates how bad a number this is.”
When restrictions are lifted, the recovery is expected to be gradual. “My worry is that it will be a slow rollout, as it should be, which means a slow recovery,” said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global. “Turning on the U.S. economy isn’t like turning on a light bulb. It’s just too big.”
If businesses begin to reopen in May, “we wouldn’t be surprised to see one-third of the jobs lost come back by July,” she said. “But it will take years for unemployment to return to pre-crisis levels.”
Like the coronavirus outbreak itself, the situation for workers varied by state. Georgia, which did not issue a shelter-in-place order until April 3, showed the biggest increase in those filing unemployment claims, with a jump of 256,000.