Mar 26, 2020

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 498 words, a 2-minute read.

Situational awareness: U.S. stocks closed higher for the third straight day as Congress moved closer to passing a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.

1 big thing: How to understand the nightmare chart

It's the most stunning chart of this crisis yet — the number of people filing for unemployment spiked to 3.3 million last week, a number unprecedented in U.S. history.

Source: St. Louis Fed; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: This is a picture of what happens when a huge swath of the economy comes to a very sudden stop, Axios' Felix Salmon writes.

  • But it tells us very little about how bad this recession is turning out to be. We're not going to get useful data on that for another month or so.

The big picture: In a recession, millions of people become unemployed. But in a normal recession, that process can take months or even years. This time around, the layoffs are being squeezed into a matter of weeks.

  • By the numbers: If unemployment claims continue at this pace for another four weeks, we'll end up seeing half as many workers laid off as lost their jobs during the 2008–09 Great Recession. On the other hand, if these numbers continue for 16 weeks, it will be twice as bad. The only way to tell which way we're going is to wait and see.
  • The March jobs report, out on April 3, reports on employment from the second week of March — too early to reflect the impact of the coronavirus shutdown. The first post-crisis jobs report will be the April one, out on May 8.

What they're saying: In this recession, "It's like an umpire whistled all the players off the economic playing field," University of Michigan economics professor Justin Wolfers tells Axios. In order to get the much-coveted V-shaped recovery, he adds, "they need to be able to whistle us back on."

The bottom line: In order for government officials to be able to persuade Americans to go back to normal, we have to be able to trust them when they tell us that it is safe to do so.

Bonus: Pics from America
Photo: Kendall Warner/Kalamazoo Gazette

Above: Two snowmen, 6 feet apart for social distancing, stand in a front yard in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Below: Signs that assist with social distancing are placed where shoppers wait in line at a grocery store in Austin.

Photo: Eric Gay/AP
2. Catch up quick
  1. Federal government update: The Trump administration is planning to label counties across the country as "high-risk, medium-risk, or low-risk" areas.
  2. State updates: Louisiana is experiencing the fastest rate of infections with more than 2,300 cases total, including a burst of more than 800 in New Orleans in 24 hours.
  3. World update: Italy announces 662 new deaths, bringing the country’s total to 8,165 — China temporarily bars entry of foreigners to stop virus spread.
3. 1 hopeful thing
"Thank you all in emergency for saving my wife's life. I love you all." Photo: Allison Swendsen

"Nurses, doctors and staff at Morristown Medical Center were left in tears as a mystery man held up a sign to the hospital window thanking them for saving his wife's life," the Morristown Daily Record reports.

  • "Emergency room nurse Allison Swendsen captured the emotional moment and shared the photo with other nurses in her department. It's now making its rounds on social media thanks to nurse Paige Vander Vliet who shared the image with her sister-in-law, Shay Vander Vliet, who then posted it to Facebook."

"This picture brought us all to tears. ... We couldn't do this without nurses, techs, residents, doctors, secretaries, registrars, housekeeping," Vander Vliet told the Daily Record.

Mike Allen