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April 16, 2020

22 Million Jobless Claims, but Hope Lies Ahead

Another staggering week of economic malaise, though some indications are good.

Today is National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day. We note that light-heartedly, given that many of your humble Patriot Post staff are wearing rather casual clothing as we work from home. At the most, however, an estimated 37% of Americans have the luxury of working from home, leaving the roughly two-thirds of workers who must go to a job site vulnerable to layoffs. Sadly, that’s exactly what’s happening — at an alarming rate. Another 5.2 million Americans filed jobless claims this week, bringing the four-week total to an astonishing 22 million. We’d wager those 22 million would be thrilled to work and forget the pajamas.

“Most economists expect the jobless level to be in the neighborhood of 10% when the April tally is completed,” CNBC reports, “and there are forecasts it could rise above 15%.” In fact, there are far worse projections than that.

All of this comes along with news that the small-business aid program for forgivable payroll loans — to keep people employed — has run out of money, in large part thanks to Democrat obstruction of GOP efforts to supply more. Democrat leaders would rather have people directly dependent on the government anyway, so they blocked the expansion of funds with political poison pills.

The jobless report also comes on the heels of delays in relief checks to individuals due to IRS backlogs and lack of information, including money going to the wrong bank accounts or to people who died years ago. The website for Americans to check their status has crashed. (Meanwhile, Democrats want to send Americans $2,000 every month “until employment returns to pre-COVID-19 levels.”)

And jobless filings come as reports indicate U.S. retail sales plummeted 8.7% in March — by far the worst single-month decline since records began in 1992. Some industries fared far worse. National Review reports, “Auto sales sank 25.6 percent, while clothing store sales dropped off by more than 50 percent. Sales at restaurants and bars suffered a crippling 27 percent drop.” April numbers will certainly be even more abysmal. Consumer spending comprises roughly two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, and if these trends to reverse course soon, it will bring a serious recession — or worse.

Yet there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are key indicators that the spread of coronavirus has slowed. Reducing the rate of infection and death is one of the benchmarks decision-makers will look for in beginning to reopen the economy. Many nations in Europe, including economic powerhouse Germany, will begin sending many people back to work next week. In the U.S., President Donald Trump has made efforts — however haphazard — to lay out a path for reopening the economy, and he’ll release further guidelines today.

On a more personal note from our little shop, we’re more grateful than ever for the blessings we enjoy as we’re made painfully aware how precarious those blessings can be. We’re indebted to our faithful supporters, who have answered our calls for funding despite a terrible economic downturn. We’re thankful for the resilience of the American people, who always engage in vigorous political debate but rise to every challenge. Most of all, we’re grateful to our Creator and Sustainer, who numbers even the hairs on our heads.

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