The speed and depth of the collapse of the labour market in the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic should concern everyone, not just Americans. The White House now warns the unemployment rate could reach past 20 per cent, putting it within range of the rates during the depths of the Great Depression. In February, which seems an eternity away, the unemployment rate was 3.5 per cent, a half-century low. The world’s largest economy is choked by lockdowns while China is not picking up the slack. The International Monetary Fund has warned that its upcoming forecast for the economic outlook will be worse than its mid-April prediction of a 3 per cent contraction in global output. The staggering job losses in the US are an anomaly among developed economies of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Despite Washington’s massive US$3 trillion-plus support and stimulus package, it is letting businesses lay off staff and is instead improving unemployment benefits to shield the newly jobless from economic hardships. In most other OECD countries, governments have moved to protect jobs by offering to subsidise the wages of workers so long as bosses keep them on. In this respect, Hong Kong has been much closer to other OECD countries in that the government has earmarked HK$80 billion to help workers under the Employment Support Scheme and another HK$57.5 billion to cover ailing firms. Meanwhile, Beijing has been careful in reopening the economy after the lockdowns. The Chinese central bank said greater policy support would be needed to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as markets anticipate further monetary easing. But Beijing has made clear its reluctance to implement large-scale stimulus such as that enacted during the global financial crisis, which caused a massive build-up of debt and fuelled asset bubbles. Virus hits purses of world’s richest, more fortunes to come from tech: report In the US, first-quarter GDP contracted by 4.8 per cent, while the Chinese economy shrank by 6.8 per cent and the euro zone economy by 3.8 per cent during the same period. When you consider the US and China together account for almost 40 per cent of the global economy, the worldwide economic outlook is grim. Economists and investors can’t agree on whether a US recovery will be quick or slow. One camp predicts continuing weak consumer demand as the unemployment rate can only fall slowly from its historic highs. But a study by Goldman Sachs finds that the highest job losses in the US were followed by the fastest labour market recoveries. It determines that eight in 10 job losses are temporary, and most workers expect re-employment as soon as the economy picks up. The world economy can only pray for a speedy labour recovery in the US. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.