Initial filings for unemployment insurance in the U.S. totaled a record 6.648 million for the week ending March 28. That more than doubled the prior week’s reported total that was also marked a high record at the time. Economists at Bank of America Global Research believe that, even though the current labor market fallout from the COVID-19 economic hard-stop the U.S. is in has been the most severe so far, the broader economic downturn will result in the worst recession in modern U.S. history.
The U.S. suffered a net loss of jobs for the first time in nearly a decade as a result of COVID-19. Employers lost 701,000 jobs in March, the most since 2009. However, the shutdown from the coronavirus pandemic has already pushed around 10 million people out of work; most of those will not be recorded until the April unemployment report.
The Architecture Billings Index registered at 53.4 in February, reflecting an increase in design services. This is up from January’s reading and is expected to be negatively impacted in the coming months.
March’s Purchasing Managers Index registered at 49.1%, down 1 percentage point from the February reading of 50.%. The New Orders Index registered at 42.2%, down 7.6 points from the previous month. The Production Index registered at 47.7%, down 2.6 points compared to February.
Durable goods reflected increased demand for the third straight month for February as new orders increased 1.2% to $249.4 billion. Shipments of durable goods in February reversed a trend of 7 months of decreases by increasing 0.8% to $252.3 billion.
Oil production in the U.S. slowed and exploration has come to a standstill amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The trend has been seen worldwide. Currently, there is no clear end to the price slide, with some analysts forecasting that prices won’t increase until 2021.
The Steel Industry
Five major U.S. steel industry groups, including the American Institute of Steel Construction, American Iron and Steel Institute, Steel Manufacturers Association, the Committee on Pipe and Tube Imports, and Specialty Steel Industry of North America, strongly urged Congress to include significant infrastructure funds in the next stimulus bill. The letter from the the industry groups reiterated that 38% of America’s bridges are in need of replacement or repair.
For more information, contact your local sales representative or view the April 2020 Market Insight Guide below.