NEW YORK. May 19, 2020 (Washington Post) — We have had weeks of dreadful news about the economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic. And while there have been slight improvements here or there, much in the reports looks bleak.
In the first week of the month, new claims for unemployment were about 3 million. The past eight weeks’ worth of claims have been 36.5 million. The Labor Department said the unemployment rate for April was 14.7 percent, the highest since the Great Depression. St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard predicted about 30 percent of the U.S. workforce being unemployed before the tide turns. Many of the people who still have jobs are experiencing pay cuts.
Unemployment claims for many have been held up due to outdated technology, stricter state rules about who can claim unemployment and confusion about who can apply for what. The Federal Reserve Bank announced it was far from done supporting the post-coronavirus pandemic recovery, and some economists are talking about 2022 as a recovery target. The stock market pushes ahead, waiting for all that cash from the Federal Reserve to filter into the far corners, down into consumers’ pockets.
But if anyone doubted the idea that nearly 80 percent of Americans were living paycheck-to-paycheck before the pandemic, you only need look to the hours-long lines at food banks across the country. With many Americans unable to cover a month of expenses, there is hurt aplenty.
Mortgage interest rates have been near historic lows in the past few weeks, even as some mortgage lenders indicated they would tighten credit and financial resource requirements for approving loans. If you’re thinking about refinancing, think about this: Rather than lose good customers, some lenders are offering the opportunity to simply lower the interest rate on existing loans, without paying additional fees. Ask your lender if this is an option before you start shopping around.
The number of listings available is down significantly from a year ago, but buyers are still making offers on existing homes and new construction. While that is nowhere near a normal spring market, at least it’s a hopeful sign.