Mar 17, 2020 - Economy & Business

Coronavirus forces record-low business conditions

Data: New York Federal Reserve; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: New York Federal Reserve; Chart: Axios Visuals

The first piece of concrete data on the U.S. economy since the COVID-19 outbreak started to significantly impact U.S. firms was released Monday and the results were not good.

Driving the news: The New York Fed's Empire State business conditions index fell by a record 34.4 points this month to its lowest level since the financial crisis in 2009, based on surveys conducted March 2–10. Economists had expected a reading in the single digits.

  • “The impact of the coronavirus was still in its early stages at the time of this survey. Nonetheless, the early indications suggest that the impact was substantial,” said T.J. Connelly, head of research at Contingent Macro Advisors.

Details: The new orders index fell 31.4 points to -9.3 in March. Shipments fell 20.6 points to -1.7. Labor market indicators weakened. Optimism about the six-month outlook dropped to 1.2 from 22.9.

  • Perhaps most importantly, the New York Fed's survey revealed that the number of employees fell to -1.5 from 6.6, and the average workweek fell to -10.6.

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