Some economists say that when the US unemployment rate for April comes out next week, it could be as high as 20 per cent – a figure not seen since the Depression of the 1930s, when joblessness peaked at 25 per cent.
Lockdowns and restrictions to contain the virus have shut down industries and businesses.
US GDP data yesterday also showed a 4.8 per cent contraction in the first quarter and Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said the US economy was likely to see an “unprecedented” downturn in the next three month period.
The virus has killed more than 61,000 people across the US and infected more than one million.
Worldwide it has claimed more than 230,000 lives, with 3.2 million infections.
European economies also have been hit hard. The economy in the 19 countries using the euro shrank 3.8 per cent in the first quarter of the year, the biggest contraction since the eurozone countries began keeping joint statistics 25 years ago.
France’s economy shrank by 5.8 per cent, the biggest quarterly drop since 1949.
Spain’s economy contracted by 5.2 per cent, while Germany predicts its economy will retract by 6.3 per cent this year.
Unemployment in Europe has reached 7.4 per cent, but job-protection programs run by governments are temporarily keeping millions of Europeans on payrolls, sparing them from the massive lay-offs seen in the US.
But there are warnings that statistics do not capture the enormity of the economic crisis.
The quarterly figures cover January through March, and many of the lockdowns in Europe and the US were not imposed until March.
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