More and more indicators are spelling out the scale of economic damage being wreaked by Covid-19 and the containment measures taken to tackle it, writes Robert Shortt.

The Great Frost of 1709 saw temperatures across Europe plummet.
In France, it is estimated that 600,000 people died of starvation. In what became known as the Great Northern War, 2,000 Swedish troops perished from exposure while their hardier Russian foes huddled in their camps.
I present these historical titbits as the Governor of the Bank of England declared this week that the UK economy will suffer its worst recession in 300 years as a result of Covid-19. So you can forget your Great Depression comparisons.
We are in the thick of it now.
More and more indicators are spelling out the scale of economic damage – both here and abroad – being wreaked by Covid-19 and the containment measures taken to tackle it.
In Ireland we had record unemployment of 28.2% in April, once those on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment were counted. It’s even worse for people aged between 15 and 24. Unable to activate the historic Irish solution of emigration, youth unemployment has shot up to 52.8%.
The so-called ‘soft indicators’, like the purchasing manager indices in manufacturing and services, are all showing record falls both in Ireland and across Europe.
These indicators record the intentions and sentiments of managers across a range of companies. New orders are at record lows; redundancies at record highs. And it’s taking longer for the companies that are still engaged in production to get raw materials. They are the supply chains you may have heard about, and they seizing up. 
These soft indicators have a pretty good record of predicting what actually happens in economies.
Other leading indicators like the reduction in the demand for credit from companies and personal customers highlighted by the Central Bank this week point towards an economy shrinking at an unprecedented rate.
Interestingly, depending on what you read into those Central Bank statistics, it does raise the question as to whether the provision of additional credit through government schemes is really what companies facing a cash crisis like this really want or need.
Spending patterns provide another signpost. Data from the CSO and the Central Bank showed purchases of groceries off the charts but pretty much everything else in decline. Cash is disappearing but even when the bulge in credit and debit card usage is accounted for, the actual amounts being spent is declining.
One of the reasons, according to industry insiders, is that big purchases like air tickets and hotels account for a big chunk of credit card transactions. And there’s not a lot of that happening now.
And that leads us nicely to some of the scarier industry numbers emerging. This week Ryanair published its air traffic statistics for April. The company stated that it carried out 600 flights in April. This included rescue and medical flights on behalf of several EU governments.
Being Ryanair, the statement noted that 99% of these flights arrived on time. The flights carried approximately 40,000 passengers. In April last year, the airline carried 13.5 million passengers. That’s a drop of 99.3%.
Covid-19 stirred up a whirlpool which has sucked down economies across the world. If it is the worst economic shock since the Great Frost, we can only hope this glorious early summer weather can deliver some green shoots soon.
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