On Friday the unemployment rate for May will be released, and it’s expected to be around 20%, up from 3.5% in February. But even as we await that Great Depression-level jobless rate, at least one prominent economist thinks we have already hit the bottom of the COVID-19 recession.
“I think the recession is over. The recession ended in May, and in June we’ll see job growth,” says Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analytics. “We are in recovery.”
The massive contractions that started in March reversed in late May as states began to loosen up on their shutdowns, Zandi told Fortune. The number of Americans on unemployment benefits fell 3.9 million last week to a total of 21 million receiving benefits. And Zandi forecast the Department of Labor’s data release tomorrow will show another massive decline in the number of Americans on unemployment insurance.
A 3.8 million decline in the number of Americans on state unemployment rolls points to hiring and rehiring in the economy. However, we have a long way to go—given only 1.8 million people were on unemployment insurance the week of March 14, a number that peaked at 24.9 million the week of May 9.
And companies eliminated fewer jobs than expected in May. On Wednesday, ADP reported private payroll fell by almost 2.8 million jobs in May. That was well below the more than 8 million some economists expected, and far under the 19.6 million lost jobs in April.
But being out of the recession phase—when economic growth and activity are declining—and into the recovery phase doesn’t mean the economic storm has passed. The economy could take months or years to recover. Zandi foresees the unemployment rate falling in June, but staying above 10% until at least September.
“We have a long way to dig out of this. It is the most severe downturn since the 1930s. But we are coming off the bottom, and that is the end of the recession,” Zandi says.