The analysis by Moody’s Analytics was done at the request of the WSJ and offers a deep dive into the U.S. economy since it shuttered about three weeks ago. The study showed that 8 in 10 counties are locked down and represent almost 96 percent of the entire country’s output. The analysis looked at counties of all sizes and locations to get an idea of how the government shutdown is affecting the nation’s output.
Daily output in the country is off about 29 percent when compared against the week of March 1, before the coronavirus triggered stay-at-home mandates, the analysis indicated. Some 41 states have mandates closing down nonessential businesses like bars and gyms.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said it’s not likely the 29 percent drop “will be sustained over two more months.” If that were the case, the gross domestic product (GDP) would drop an annual rate of 75 percent in the second quarter. He said he thinks a lot of counties will be back in business before the summer. He forecasted a 30 percent annualized drop in the second-quarter GDP.
The majority of economists anticipate that output will bounce back in the summer or fall after the pandemic levels off and everything reopens. During the Great Depression, annual output dropped 26 percent from 1929 to 1933, according to data from the Commerce Department. During the Great Recession, quarterly output dropped about 4 percent between the end 2007 and the middle of 2009.
“This is a natural disaster,” Zandi said. “There’s nothing in the Great Depression that is analogous to what we’re experiencing now.”
On Friday (April 3), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said total nonfarm employment fell by 701,000 jobs in March, as the unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent from a half-century low of 3.5 percent.