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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Economists are warning that the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic is now creating another recession: mass job losses, business failures and declines in spending even in industries not directly impacted by the virus.

Why it matters: The looming recession — a possible recession within a recession is less severe than the coronavirus-driven downturn. But it's more likely to permanently push millions out of the labor force, lower wages and leave long-lasting scars on the economy.

What we're hearing: "As the recovery has slowed down we’ve seen a couple of metrics transform from something that was extraordinary and unique and that we’d only seen in this COVID recession to something that is much more in line with our historic experience with typical recessions," Ernie Tedeschi, a managing director and policy economist for Evercore ISI, tells Axios.

The warning signs he sees:

  • The increasing number of layoffs that have gone from classified as temporary to classified as permanent.
  • The increasing number of men who have lost jobs in recent months, a traditional recession dynamic and reversal of the trend that saw more women being laid off in early months.
  • The rising rate of long-term unemployment, an unfortunate hallmark of the 2008 Great Recession.

"The longer this weakness persists the harder it is to recover later on," Tedeschi adds.

  • Darius Dale, managing director at Hedgeye Risk Management, tells Axios: "Our view is that the U.S. economy is transitioning from a depression to a recession and not a recovery."

But, but, but: It will be hard to see the recession in most data, because third quarter economic growth will be compared to the second quarter, which was the worst downturn in history.

  • Absent another wave of lockdowns, Q3 GDP growth should be the highest ever — but largely because of pent-up demand and the simple fact that most U.S. business are allowed to operate.

Be smart: The new recession is exactly what policymakers were trying to avoid by passing the $2 trillion CARES Act in March.

How it happened: "We had an uneven shutdown around the country and what that allowed the virus to do is really take hold and remain a force for economic outcomes," Constance Hunter, chief economist at consulting firm KPMG, tells Axios.

  • Hunter also serves as president of the historically right-leaning National Association for Business Economics, which recently released a poll of its members that found two-thirds believe the economy is still in a recession.
  • More than a third (37%) see a one-in-two chance of a double-dip recession — an occurrence that Hunter notes is "extremely rare."

The bottom line: The recession within a recession is giving economists flashbacks of 2008 and the long recovery needed to get many of the country's lower-income citizens back on their feet.

  • The difference this time is that it follows an economic shock that caused at least three times the number of job losses as 2008, and has put four times as many people on government unemployment insurance.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Oct 28, 2020 - Economy & Business

Economists throw cold water on Q3 GDP expectations

Reproduced from S&P Global; Chart: Axios Visuals

Tomorrow's GDP report is poised to be one for the record books, but economists warn that the numbers are likely to be deceiving.

What we're hearing: The GDP is likely to catch a lot of attention tomorrow as we expect a historic 29.5% growth annualized," says Beth Ann Bovino, S&P Global's chief U.S. economist. 

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

How Biden might tackle the Iran deal

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Four more years of President Trump would almost certainly kill the Iran nuclear deal — but the election of Joe Biden wouldn’t necessarily save it.

The big picture: Rescuing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is near the top of Biden's foreign policy priority list. He says he'd re-enter the deal once Iran returns to compliance, and use it as the basis on which to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting deal with Iran.

Kamala Harris, the new left's insider

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images     

Progressive leaders see Sen. Kamala Harris, if she's elected vice president, as their conduit to a post-Biden Democratic Party where the power will be in younger, more diverse and more liberal hands.

  • Why it matters: The party's rising left sees Harris as the best hope for penetrating Joe Biden's older, largely white inner circle.

If Biden wins, Harris will become the first woman, first Black American and first Indian American to serve as a U.S. vice president — and would instantly be seen as the first in line for the presidency should Biden decide against seeking a second term.

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