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Economists think coronavirus could push unemployment above Great Depression levels. Here's why the pain won't be as prolonged this time.

Economists think coronavirus could push unemployment above Great Depression levels. Here's why the pain won't be as prolonged this time.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images



Bleak unemployment data and forward-looking projections suggest the US economy is doomed for a prolonged recession.




Some forecasts for unemployment have exceeded what was seen during the peak of the Great Depression. But some experts still see a path to a V-shaped rebound.




Demand can still bounce back in the virus's wake, according to Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, said.




But the outlook isn't all rosy. The labor market's historic declines "suggest that productive capacity is being eroded," Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors, said.




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Dire unemployment forecasts are sending a shock through the already-pummeled economy and garnering comparisons to the Great Depression. But experts are still holding out hope for a sharp, V-shaped rebound.
A New York Times column published Friday pegged the current unemployment rate at 13%, roughly 9 percentage points greater than its latest reading. Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University's Center for Financial Economics said Thursday that the rate could soar to 20% over the next six months as layoffs continue and plunge the country into labor-market turmoil not seen since the 1930s.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman issued one of the most ominous forecasts yet on Friday. He deemed CFE's timeline projection for 20% unemployment "wildly optimistic," adding "we may well be there in two weeks."
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