An Early View of the Economic Impact of the Pandemic in 5 Charts

By guest authors John Bluedorn, Gita Gopinath, and Damiano Sandri from IMF Internatioonal Monetary Fund.

John Bluedorn is a Deputy Division Chief on the World Economic Outlook in the IMF’s Research Department. Previously, he has been a senior economist in the Research Department’s Structural Reforms Unit, a member of the IMF’s euro area team in the European Department and worked on the World Economic Outlook as an economist, contributing to a number of chapters. Before joining the IMF, he was a professor at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, after a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Oxford. Mr. Bluedorn has published on a range of topics in international finance, macroeconomics, and development. He holds a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley.

Gita Gopinath is the Economic Counsellor and Director of the Research Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She is on leave of public service from Harvard University’s Economics department where she is the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and of Economics.

Ms. Gopinath’s research, which focuses on International Finance and Macroeconomics, has been published in many top economics journals. She has authored numerous research articles on exchange rates, trade and investment, international financial crises, monetary policy, debt, and emerging market crises.

She is the co-editor of the current Handbook of International Economics and was earlier the co-editor of the American Economic Review and managing editor of the Review of Economic Studies. She had also previously served as the co-director of the International Finance and Macroeconomics program at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and member of the economic advisory panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. From 2016-18, she was the Economic Adviser to the Chief Minister of Kerala state in India. She also served as a member of the Eminent Persons Advisory Group on G-20 Matters for India’s Ministry of Finance.

Ms. Gopinath is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society, and recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Washington. In 2019, Foreign Policy named her one of the Top Global Thinkers, in 2014, she was named one of the top 25 economists under 45 by the IMF and in 2011 she was chosen a Young Global Leader (YGL) by the World Economic Forum. The Indian government awarded her the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians. Before joining the faculty of Harvard University in 2005, she was an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Ms. Gopinath was born in India. She is a U.S. citizen and an Overseas Citizen of India. She received her Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 2001 after earning a B.A. from Lady Shri Ram College and M.A. degrees from Delhi School of Economics and University of Washington.
Damiano Sandri is a Deputy Division Chief in the World Economic Studies Division in the IMF’s Research Department. Previously, he worked as senior economist on Brazil and joined various IMF missions to European countries. His research has been featured in top academic journals and various IMF publications. He is a CEPR Research Fellow and associate editor of the IMF Economic Review. He holds a PhD in Economics from the Johns Hopkins University.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the world into a recession. For 2020 it will be worse than the global financial crisis. The economic damage is mounting across all countries, tracking the sharp rise in new infections and containment measures put in place by governments.

China was the first country to experience the full force of the disease, with confirmed active cases at over 60000 by mid-February. European countries such as Italy, Spain, and France are now in acute phases of the epidemic, followed by the United States where the number of active cases is growing rapidly. In many emerging market and developing economies, the epidemic appears to be just beginning.

In Italy, the first country in Europe to be severely hit, the government imposed a national lockdown on March 9 to contain the spread of the virus. As a result, attendance in public places and electricity use have declined dramatically, especially in the northern regions where infection rates have been considerably higher.

The economic consequences of the pandemic are already impacting the United States with unprecedented speed and severity. In the last two weeks in March almost 10 million people applied for unemployment benefits. Such a sharp and staggering increase has never been seen before, not even at the peak of the global financial crisis in 2009.

Disruptions caused by the virus are starting to ripple through emerging markets. After showing little movement early in the year, the latest indices from purchasing manager surveys (PMIs) are pointing to sharp slowdowns in manufacturing output in many countries, reflecting drops in external demand and growing expectations of declining domestic demand. On a positive note, China is seeing a modest improvement in its PMI after sharp declines early in the year, despite weak external demand.

The modest improvement in economic activity in China is reflected in daily satellite data on nitrogen dioxide concentrations in the local atmosphere—a proxy for industrial and transport activity (but also the density of pollution as a by-product of fossil fuel consumption). After a steep decline from January to February during the acute phase of the pandemic, concentrations have increased as new infections have fallen, allowing China to gradually relax its strict containment measures.

The recovery in China, albeit limited, is encouraging, suggesting that containment measures can succeed in controlling the epidemic and pave the way for a resumption of economic activity. But there is huge uncertainty about the future path of the pandemic and a resurgence of its spread in China and other countries cannot be ruled out.

To overcome this pandemic, we need a global, coordinated health and economic policy effort. The IMF—in collaboration with other partners—is doing everything it can to ensure rapid support is available to impacted countries through emergency financing, policy advice, and technical assistance.

We will have more details on the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic when the IMF releases its World Economic Outlook on April 14, 2020.

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