What Matters: It took 4 months for a virus to do this to the US

But that's only half the story.

It has happened so freaking fast.


JANUARY 2, 2020, DOW CLOSE – 28,828.8




Known US Deaths – 0

At the beginning of the year, there were no cases of coronavirus in the United States, and unemployment was below 4%.


Covid-19 discovered. The Chinese government confirmed the new disease on January 7.

Included in the United States. The first known case on American soil was confirmed Jan. 21 – 10 days before the Trump administration announced it would deny US entry to foreign nationals who had recently traveled to China.

FEB 6, 2020, DOW CLOSE – 29,379





Known US Deaths – 0

The first American death was not known to be Covid-19 at that time. A 57-year-old woman in California became the first victim on American soil. She had not recently traveled to Europe. The disease was here, but we did not know the extent of it. But outbreaks on cruise ships, the spread to Asia and the quarantine of Italian cities must have been warnings.
The Dow hits a high point all the time on February 12th. President Donald Trump responded to criticism of a slow response to the virus and sacked Vice President Mike Pence, who is responsible for a new working group. Markets are starting to falter.

MARCH 2, 2020, DOW CLOSE – 26,703 (-2848 from all-time high)



Known US Deaths – 6

In the week ending March 14, relatively normal 282,000 Americans applied for first-time unemployment benefits.

Shutdown starts. A week later, most American schools had shut down, anyone who could avoid going to work was told to stay home and the new reality Covid-19 had shut down large parts of the United States.

Millions lose their jobs. In the week ending March 21, 3.3 million Americans applied for first-time unemployment benefits, a number of gobsmacking that more than doubled a week later.

When April started, more than 10 million Americans had recently applied for unemployment.

The government is trying to help. Congress passed and Trump signed into law two separate ones stimulus packages which pledged trillions of dollars to help unemployed Americans and hurt businesses. But it is nowhere near enough.

The virus explodes. Infections ranged from about 100 to tens of thousands in a month, and deaths multiplied.

April 1, 2020, DOW CLOSE – 20,943


KNOWN US INFECTIONS – More than 212,692

Known US deaths – More than 4,780

FIRST TIME REQUIREMENTS – More than 10 million in March

The stock market is stabilizing, but many more millions are unemployed. The infection continued to multiply and multiply. Another 20 million Americans applied for new unemployment during the month.

The death rate increases. More deaths from coronavirus in the United States in months than Americans died during the decade-plus war in Vietnam.

Virusplatåer. But even though the infestation curve had not fallen in most of the United States, a setback to social distance management by governors led to the reopening of parts of the country.

MAY 7, 2020, DOW CLOSE – 23,976


KNOWN US INFECTIONS – More than 1.2 million

Known US deaths – More than 75,000

FIRST TIME REQUIREMENTS – More than 20 million in April

Analysts have predicted an unemployment rate of between 10% and 22% when new unemployment data is released on Friday. But it will not yet result in nearly 10 million new unemployment claims during the middle of April, reflected above.

As states begin to reopen their economies, even though the virus continues to grow into new hot spots outside of urban centers, it is clear that known infections are lagging behind actual infections.

And what supported the community so quickly in a few months now looks like it will take years to fix.

The stuffing damages inexpensive department stores like JCPenney, plus exclusive retailers J. Crew and Neiman Marcus, both of which have filed for bankruptcy.

It largely stops the restaurant and travel industry.

Upside Down – And some unpleasant realities have been revealed in American society. One of the drivers of the decline is the loss of health care expenses. Stopped by elective procedures and hospital visits have harmed American healthcare professionals, nurses and doctors when Americans are most in need of health care. Read more about it from Tami Luhby here.

How to see this horrific data: Is it time to compare this to the Great Depression?

Last month, I asked David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, a series of questions about how to look at these incredibly expensive financial data.

Since then, things have gotten so much worse.

  • Tens of millions of Americans have filed new unemployment claims
  • Congress is arguing over a fourth stimulus package
  • Many states are starting to reopen, even though they have failed to meet the White House guidelines for containing the virus.

So I went back to Wessel for an update. His new concern for a presidential transition is not something I've considered.

ZW: How has the last month changed your assessment of what is happening?

DW: The last month, I've realized how long it will take to take the economy to recover. We know the second quarter will be terrible, but I'm not sure how big the setback will be in the third quarter: How gradually will the stops end? Will people be reluctant to trade and cycle the subway? Will the virus ebb and then come back? This is going to be a long time.

ZW: A month ago you were optimistic that the government was working fast to do what it could for the economy. Do you still feel that way?

DW: The government acted quickly, but now it appears that Congress has returned to partisan gridlock that threatens to delay, among other things, assistance that state and local governments desperately need to avoid laying off workers and limiting public services.

ZW: At what point is it appropriate to start comparing this to the Great Depression?

DW: Comparisons are useful but require perspective. (See attached chart from Paul Krugman's Twitter feed).

The depth of the decline will compete with the worst quarters of the Great Depression. But the combination of wise public health measures and sound fiscal and monetary policy can increase and strengthen recovery. We don't have to relive the 1930s, and with good politics we don't have to.

A new concern for me. The transition from Hoover to Roosevelt after 1932 [election] was a bad one. The dedication day did not come until March then, and things got very bad between November 1932 and March 1933. If Joe Biden wins the November 2020 election, I hope the transition from one president to the next does not make things worse than need be.

What was the Great Depression really like?

CNN's John Blake went to the definitive oral history of the Great Depression, compiled by Studs Terkel, and has reproduced some of it.

Pleasure was a pound of hamburger: Robert Card said he went to college with one suit, one tie, one pair of shoes and $ 30 borrowed from a bank. He called the depression a "painful" but "glorious" time because it forced America to face longstanding poverty problems.

What a pleasure it was to get half a pound of hamburger, which you buy for about five cents, take it to Union Pacific Railroad tracks and have a cookout. And some excellent conversation. And maybe swim in the Kaw River.

A friend of mine had an old Model T Ford Sedan, about a 1919 model. He had this thing mounted like a house. He lived there all year. He cooked and slept and studied inside the Model T Ford Sedan. How he managed me I will never know. Once I went there for dinner. He cooked a pretty good one on a small stove he had in this thing.

Worst since 1706

Driving home the size and scale of this hit, the Bank of England has said Britain is heading for its worst economic shock of gross domestic product since 1706. I'm not quite sure how you compare this economy to it, but when it comes to GDP this looks worse than:
  • Napoleonic wars
  • The American Revolution
  • The Great Depression
  • Both world wars

Look here:

Trump's valet has Covid-19 – In other news that conjures up antiquated ideas and terms, President Trump's valet has tested positive for coronavirus.

This is an extremely big deal since it places the Covid-19 in the immediate vicinity of masking Trump. The person was close to the president as late as Wednesday. read more.

Great Reckoning

If you're more visual, I really like this journal from Time, which puts a lot of the data we've discussed in one place. This period will eventually become known as something. Will The Great Reckoning be it?

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