Time for a Little Truth About the Economy and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jobless has soared to record levels in this looming pandemic depression, passing Great Depression’s 1933 peak of 24.9%.

(Jointly published by ThisCantBeHappening! and Tarbell.org)

By Dave Lindorff

The auto industry is gearing up to bring back at least half its workers and to begin producing cars again. Across the country, states and localities are attempting to restart businesses that have been shuttered for as much as two months because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

One might think that the worst is over, both with the disease that has killed over 93,500 people and infected over 1.5 million in the US and 4.9 million globally, and that has brought the US economy to a virtual standstill, but that would be a huge mistake.

The pandemic, most experts agree, is still raging, and is actually increasing its rate of infection in the US at this point to some 20,000 new cases a day. These experts warn that it may surge again in the fall, even in jurisdictions like California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, where strict efforts at containment appeared to have worked in slowing its spread.

Meanwhile, the economy has tanked in ways not seen since the Great Depression. Economic activity in the first quarter of this year dropped by 4.8 percent, and that’s despite the fact that the first two months of the quarter predated the real arrival of the pandemic, so all of the decline happened in the third month. In the second quarter, particularly after a disastrous collapse in April, the economy is likely to see GDP plunge by 13 percent, which would be a staggering annualized 43 percent rate. That’s a catastrophic economic collapse vastly greater than at any other period in US history. Despite brave talk from the Trump administration about the economy “roaring back”’ by year’s end, many economists think a recovery — meaning a return to pre-Pandemic levels of employment and business activity, could be years away, even if the pandemic threat ends entirely.

What we Americans need isn’t cheery talk and rosy predictions but a dose of truth, and we’re not getting it from Washington.

Unemployment is worse than we’re being told

Take unemployment. On May 8 when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its latest monthly report of the unemployment situation in April (actually, because of the period that the employment survey is conducted always ends in mid-month, the unemployment situation as of April 18) it was said to be 14.7 percent of the labor force. That number, however, was way too low, even by the BLS’s own admission. In a note appended to the bureau’s press release (which was largely ignored by the major media in their headlines), the BLS explained that its surveyors—working on the phone rather than going door-to-door as normally is done — had improperly classified those people who said they had been temporarily laid off because of the pandemic but expected to be rehired as “employed” instead of ‘unemployed.” The BLS said it was not correcting the mistake because of a long tradition of not tinkering with the data once it had been collected — error or not…

For the rest of this article, which is being jointly published by ThisCantBeHappening! and tarbell.org, the investigative news site, please go to: https://thiscantbehappening.net/time-for-a-little-truth-about-the-economy-and-the-covid-19-pandemic/ 

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