How to Track the Economic Impact of the Coronavirus

March 11, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak has roiled markets in the U.S. and across the globe. While the impact on the markets is readily apparent, the true economic cost of the outbreak may not be known for some time. 

Much of the economic data that has been released in recent weeks is based on data collected in late February, when the epidemic had barely spread beyond China. In the coming weeks and months, we will have a clearer view of the virus’s effect on everything from GDP to consumer and business sentiment.

There are a few things to watch for in the near-term to get a sense of the impact. The first is the weekly jobless claims. Claims for unemployment have been historically low in recent weeks. The coming weeks will give us insight into how businesses feel they will be able to weather the downturn. If we see a spike in layoffs, it could be a bad sign.

Another key piece of data will be consumer sentiment. The next consumer sentiment survey released will give us a snapshot of consumer feelings in early March, just as fears began to mount. Much of America’s economic growth depends on consumer spending, so Americans decide they cannot keep opening their wallets, it could be a bad sign.

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