Optimism falls nationally amidst COVID-19 concerns, more on unemployment numbers, and governor slows reopening.

Yesterday’s unemployment reports – a drop in state UI claims, an increase nationally – are nicely illustrative of the uncertain economic climate. Gone are the days when we expected a relatively early resolution to the pandemic and a strong V-shaped recovery. 

The nation mood is changing, as the Associated Press reports today.

Nearly half of Americans whose families experienced a layoff during the coronavirus pandemic now believe those jobs are lost forever, a new poll shows, as temporary cutbacks give way to shuttered businesses, bankruptcies and lasting payroll cuts.

It’s a sharp change after initial optimism the jobs would return. In April, 78% of those in households with a job loss thought they’d be temporary. Now, 47% think that lost job is definitely or probably not coming back, according to the latest poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

And, for a majority health concerns outweigh their desire to see the economy reopen.

The poll shows that 72% of Americans would rather have restrictions in place in their communities to stop the spread of COVID-19 than remove them in an effort to help the economy. Just 27% want to prioritize the economy over efforts to stop the outbreak.

“The only real end to this pandemic problem is the successful application of vaccines,” said Fred Folkman, 82, a business professor from Long Island, in New York.

In our state, Gov. Inslee has again paused the reopening of the economy. The Seattle Times reports

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday tighter restrictions on bars, restaurants, fitness centers, weddings and funerals as new confirmed cases of the new coronavirus rise.

Thursday’s announcements are the most sweeping rollback so far to the governor’s original four-phase reopening plan.

And it comes as Washington sees its highest daily new cases of the pandemic. Almost every part of the state is “on the path to runaway transmission rates of COVID-19,” state health officials said this week.

More on the governor’s Medium page

The Washington Research Council has continued its analysis of claims by sectors, which again highlight that the service sectors most affected by the tighter restrictions are also among those already suffering job losses.

The five sectors with the greatest number of claims are, in descending order, accommodation and food services; health services and social assistance; manufacturing; retail trade; and construction. Together these five sectors accounted for 58 percent of the initial claims.

And, regarding the unemployment claims data, Seattle Times business reporter Paul Roberts writes that some data remain elusive.

For an agency known as the go-to source for data on Washington’s jobs market, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) has been notably slow lately in sharing certain numbers on the pandemic unemployment crisis.

During a press conference Thursday, ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine again declined to give an estimate for the number of bogus fraudulent claims filed in this spring’s massive unemployment fraud scheme…

Also missing is an estimate of the total number of workers in Washington who have filed legitimate claims for jobless benefits but aren’t currently being paid.

Roberts continues,

The lack of data comes amid concerns that surging virus cases and other uncertainties may already be slowing the pace of the state’s nascent economic recovery.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions on economic activity. Employers are also grappling with political uncertainties over federal stimulus programs that have spurred a lot of state economic activity…

Employers “are being very cautious, rightly so,” said Thomas Gilbert, associate professor of finance at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. 

More than 250,000 of the jobs the state lost at the height of the pandemic layoffs in March and April haven’t come back — evidence, Gilbert said, that the state faces a “long slog to get back to ‘full’ employment.”

Calculated Risk rounds up some new Q2 GDP forecasts, suggesting about a 35% annual rates decline.

GDP is reported at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR). So a 35% Q2 decline is around 10% decline from Q1 (SA).