Understanding the record jobless numbers

The outlook for record unemployment numbers
The outlook for record unemployment numbers 03:02

There wasn't a lot of good news this past week.

Coronavirus has now killed more than 7,000 Americans. And the government came out with the stunning prediction that there could eventually be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in this country.

Meanwhile, the economic casualties are starting to add up.

The March jobs report was a disaster. In the last full week of that month, more than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. That's on top of more than 3 million the week before. Keep in mind the previous high was in 1982, when just under 700,000 people filed.

"The numbers are just shocking," said Kenneth Rogoff, an economics professor at Harvard, who has written about the last eight centuries of economic crises, "This Time Is Different: "Eight Centuries of Financial Folly" (Princeton University Press).

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Princeton University Press

"We've been hit by what is almost an alien invasion. It's a natural catastrophe," he said.

That catastrophe spread to retailers like Macy's, the Gap and Victoria's Secret, who announced they're sidelining hundreds of thousands of workers.

CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger asked, "I think people are going to look at these numbers, they're going to wake up and pore through the newspaper, and realize that we're going to talk about this as the worst since the Depression. And they're going to imagine that soon we'll be lining up for bread. Can you really help take some of the anxiety out of that kind of conjuring of images for us?

"Well, I'd make a couple points," said Rogoff. "First, we are much richer than we were in the Great Depression. We can afford to do things we couldn't afford to do, and I think the government's moving that direction.

"I think the financial markets still sort of believe it will be back to normal by the end of the year or early next year. And if they're right, that's very different than the Great Depression, which lasted 10 years."

About those financial markets – the numbers from the first three months of the year are in, and it's not pretty.

The Dow had its worst quarter since 1987, falling 23 percent.

Crude oil saw its biggest quarterly price drop in history, down 66 percent.  

But maybe this is a sign of the times: The commodity with the biggest gain was orange juice, up 23 percent.

So, keep drinking plenty of fluids, wash your hands, and let's keep each other safe.

       
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Story produced by Alan Golds. Editor: Joe Frandino.