The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index for April was down 4.4% to 98.8 in April after falling 7.4% (previously down 6.7%) in March. It won’t be until the NBER declares the official dating some months from not as to whether the recession started in March or April, but it is clear that the US economy is in a sharp downturn with little upward momentum to mitigate the shock from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Six of 10 components in the index were negative contributors and four were positives. On net, the negatives far outweighed the positives. The largest downside contributions were from the average workweek (-1.82) and initial jobless claims (-1.44) where widespread shutdowns wiped out scheduled work hours and the number of claims for unemployment benefits skyrocketed. Those areas where there were positive contributions reflected only an improvement from very low levels of activity.
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