‘We’re going to see numbers that are shocking’: Jobless claims top 3.2 million as data on coronavirus toll rolls in

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The first truly jaw-dropping batch of economic data is out, and the numbers are record-breaking.

On Thursday, weekly jobless claims (for the week ending March 21) came in at 3.28 million—not only a drastic uptick from the 282,000 the week prior, but an all-time record, surpassing even the Great Recession peak of 665,000 and 1982’s all-time high of 695,000.

For those like Mike Ryan, Americas chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, these numbers are only the beginning. “We’re going to see numbers that are shocking to us,” he tells Fortune.

In fact, the latest jobless claims report has Bank of America now estimating that unemployment will hit 7% by April, with potentially between 4 million and 6 million jobs lost, according to a BofA Global Research report on Thursday.

In terms of fallout, the latest jobless claims could only be the beginning.

“Along with the claims number, the high frequency data on the consumer and other survey measures we have been tracking suggests that the disruption to the economy has been drastic and acute,” according to the BofA Global Research report.

For Goldman Sachs, the jobless data “confirms that the coronacrisis has caused widespread mass layoffs, and we expect a similar or even larger pace of filings in next week’s release,” Goldman economists wrote in a Thursday research note. The data, along with international trade data and February inventories, has the firm now lowering its 1st quarter GDP tracking estimate by six tenths to -6.3%.

Consumer and business confidence, meanwhile, has been pummeled by the latest jobless and demand dislocations. According to a survey conducted from March 24—25 by global research firm Ipsos, U.S. consumer confidence plunged to 46.0 overall this week—almost 15 points lower than it was just a few weeks ago at 60.9, according to the report released Thursday. UBS’s Ryan notes that, for GDP, it will be “probably one of the deepest demand shocks we’ve ever seen,” and that, for consumer confidence, watching the policy response is going to be critical.

Yet Ryan suggests it’s hard to rely too heavily on economic data estimates at a time like this. “I’ve never seen a period of time where economic data becomes obsolete more quickly than today,” Ryan says. “I’m not saying [economic data doesn’t] matter or they won’t have potentially an impact, especially if we have some significant surprises, but I think right now with everyone’s expectations so unmoored, it’s going to be hard for us to take a lot of deep insight into how the numbers are interpreted or how the market reacts to them.”

And the markets haven’t really reacted to Thursday’s eye-popping data. Stocks rose on Thursday for a third straight day, with the Dow and S&P 500 both closing over 6% up—their best three-day rally since 1933.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—Everything you need to know about the coronavirus stimulus checks
—The quickest way to boost the economy isn’t even being considered. Why?
How does America pay for the coronavirus relief bill? With two shiny coins
—Will the “Great Cessation” be worse than the Great Recession?
—Listen to Leadership Next, a Fortune podcast examining the evolving role of CEO
—WATCH: U.S. tax deadline moved from April 15 to July 15

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