But can a recession and record jobs growth coexist simultaneously? Economists think the answer is yes. After all, a recovery needs more than one positive data point.
Can America be in a recession even with record level job growth?
A recession is commonly defined as two consecutive quarters of decline to a nation’s gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy.
For the current, second quarter, economists expect an annualized decline as steep as 40%, which would exceed the low-point of the financial crisis. US gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy, contracted at an annualized 8.4% in the final three months of 2008.
The “Great Lockdown” could be the shortest recession in history, as experts hope for a sharp rebound in economic activity in the third quarter of the year, said Englund. So far, the shortest downturn on record is 1980’s six-month recession.
“The recession itself won’t last long, because the trough will be quick. But the scars, the lingering effect from this, will be long lasting,” said Gregory Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics.
If we can switch the economy off, can we just switch it back on?
Just how long the path to recovery might be is the biggest question on the minds of policy makers, central bankers and economists right now.
The labor market is expected to continue its rebound in coming months. But it’s easy to record the best job gains ever when the starting point is the worst job loss in history, warned Daco.
“If you recoup one job for every 10 you lost, you’re still nine in the hole,” he said.
Worse still, the apparent rebound in economic data might detract from the remaining pain in the economy and could lead to less or delayed government stimulus this summer. That, in turn, would slow the recovery further, Daco said.
At the start of the coronavirus downturn, many predicted a V-shaped recovery, which is characterized a steep decline followed by a sharp rebound.
The longer the lockdown lasted, the more the recovery prognosis has changed. Forecasts ranged from a U-shape, a prolonged recession ahead of a steep rebound; to a W-shape, which is defined by a second downturn following a brief recovery; to an L-shape for no recovery after the collapse.
The recovery alphabet soup is a sure indication that we are in uncharted territory. And after last week’s better than expected jobs report, hopes for a strong comeback are growing again.
“For 80% of the economy, the recovery will be V-shaped,” said Englund. “But there are a lot of businesses that won’t come back, so if you’re close to those, the recovery will seem like an L.”
In March, America hunkered down all at once, but the reopening will be staggered. New York, for example, the epicenter of the outbreak at one point, will likely trail the rest of the country in its rebound.