As the US economy continues its self-inflicted contraction, job numbers continue to paint a picture of a severely damaged economy. Just about everywhere you turn, the numbers are going from bad to worse. And as long as millions of Americans remain under lockdown, those numbers won’t get better anytime soon.
Last week saw two horrendous figures coming out. The first was for first-time unemployment applications. Analysts across the board figured that it would be somewhere in the range of 3 to 5 million. In fact, it ended up at over 6.6 million.
Then there was the figure for job creation. While everyone expected a loss of jobs, the consensus estimate would be that the economy would lose about 100,000 jobs. Instead, it lost over 700,000. Despite all that, the official unemployment rate is still at a relatively low 4.4%. But as former Fed Chairman Janet Yellen said, if we had a real-time unemployment rate indicator, it would likely show unemployment today at 12-13% and rising.
Many economic forecasters today are expecting unemployment rates to rise to 25%, 30%, or more, rivaling levels last seen during the Great Depression. There’s an expectation that continued government assistance will help individuals and businesses bridge the time between their layoffs and hopeful eventual employment, but there’s no telling how long it will take the economy to get back to normal once the coronavirus crisis ends.
Just think of a single factory that keeps operations running 24/7, because the time it takes to shut down is measured in days, and the time it takes to get back up and running is measured in weeks. Then multiply that by thousands of businesses and millions of workers. Even if every governor decided tomorrow that all businesses could open back up again, it would likely take several months for everything to get back to normal. And the longer these shutdowns last, the longer it will take the economy to get back to normal.
If we have another month or two of businesses being shuttered, the effects could be catastrophic. Businesses that burn through their cash will end up shuttered. Numerous households will have to burn through their savings in order to pay their bills. There’s no telling how rough things will get.
Even once things get back to normal, we’ll have to deal with the reality that the economic bubble was set to collapse anyway. With over $10 trillion in outstanding corporate debt, stock prices that were way out of touch with reality, and households that were already living paycheck to paycheck, a recession was in the cards for this year from the beginning. The coronavirus merely hastened its arrival.
The effects that will have on investors can’t be understated. If stock markets lost 50-55% of their value during the 2008 crisis, you would have to imagine that they will sink even further this time around before they hit rock bottom. We’re set to face an economic crisis that will make 2008 look like child’s play, and investors need to watch out.
Those who haven’t already taken steps to diversify their investment portfolios are going to get hit hard if they think they can stay invested in stocks and still make money. Stocks are going to take a beating, no doubt about it, the only question is how big a beating. Some investors with a longer time frame may be able to take a licking and stay all in. But if you’re nearing retirement or in retirement already, can you afford to lose a decade or more worth of stock market gains?
Many investors will find out the hard way that the trust they had in stock markets was misplaced. Just like in 2008, they’ll lose significant chunks of their retirement savings, and will have a hard time gaining them back. That’s why they need to take steps now to protect their retirement savings while there’s still time.
In the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, gold ended up being one of the best assets investors could invest in. Its price nearly tripled from the depths of the 2008 crisis until its all-time high, and it is showing signs that its performance this time around could be just as great. With so much economic turmoil on the horizon, can you really afford not to invest in gold to protect your retirement savings?