The U.S. economy shrank at a 4.8% annual rate in the first quarter of the year as the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the country and began triggering a recession that will end the longest expansion on record.
Yet the drop in the January-March quarter will be only a precursor of a far grimmer report to come on the current April-June period, with business shutdowns and layoffs striking with devastating force. With much of the economy paralyzed, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that economic activity will plunge this quarter at a 40% annual rate.
That would be, by a breathtaking margin, the bleakest quarter since such records were first compiled in 1947. It would be four times the size of the worst quarterly contraction on record set in 1958.