’Huge, unprecedented, devastating hit’: Warnings mount about economic damage

Though the ballooning economic destruction is largely being induced by the government’s efforts to combat the virus, consumers’ outlook for the economy is rapidly darkening as the virus claims more lives and shuts down a broad swath of the country.

The growing number of job losses has been a central focus as Congress considers further injections of funds into the economy and as the Fed deliberates more ways to ensure that households and businesses can stay afloat until the pandemic is brought under control — a timeline that is anyone’s guess.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged more than 1,600 points, or 7.7 percent, on data suggesting that the spread of the coronavirus may have begun to slow, but that was based on very limited information, and it is still unclear when the number of confirmed U.S. cases — now above 330,000 — will reach its peak.

“Our focus needs to be at this point on testing and getting the pandemic under enough control so we can begin to restore business activity,” Yellen said. “But certainly, unemployment could go quite a lot higher.”