Not surprisingly, early indicators point to a less bleak future for Sweden's still-open economy than for that of its European counterparts. A recent study by Swedbank shows that private consumption in Sweden shrank 17% between April 6 to April 19 compared to the same period last year, while revenue from hotel and restaurants was down 50%. Swedbank's chief economist Andreas Wallström, commented in daily Svenska Dagbladet that the economy is bleeding, but not to the extent as in countries where strict lockdowns were put in place.

In Norway, unemployment has shot from 5% to 10% since mid-March, while Sweden has seen only a 1% increase to 8% since late February. Meanwhile, in harder-hit countries such as Spain, the unemployment rate, which ended 2019 at 14%, is now expected to climb to nearly 21% in 2020, reports Spanish daily El Pais. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund predicts a drop in Spanish GDP of 8%, a drastic turn from the solid growth of 2% in 2019, while similar forecasts of an 8% drop in Portugal, Latvia and Lithuania, while in Italy and Greece, the IMF predicted the fall will be even greater: 9.1% and 10%, respectively.

We now live in an economy that is both infinitely more dynamic and geographically interconnected.

Still, early indicators offer little guidance for what to expect for the future, and tell us even less about the extent to which lockdowns should be held accountable for current economic impacts. Norway, as an example, might be seeing a steeper rise in unemployment rate than Sweden due its heavily oil-dependent economy, while countries like Spain and Portugal are almost certainly suffering worse downturns due to its already frail economies, which could crumble further if the summer tourist season is effectively canceled.

Other unknowns include how a possible second wave of COVID-19 would affect countries with different degrees of lockdowns, and the corresponding pace of post-pandemic recovery. A recent study led by two economists with the U.S. Federal Reserve shows that while areas most affected by the 1928 flu pandemic saw a persistent decline in real economic activity, cities that implemented early and stringent social distancing measures suffered no adverse economic effects over the medium term, but rather saw a relative increase in real economic activity after the pandemic subsided.

Still historical analogies have their limits: We now live in an economy that is both infinitely more dynamic and geographically interconnected, and while some national responses may emerge as blueprints for others, the global economic impact of the crisis will be just that — global.


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