COVID-19 has caused a public health and economic crisis across the globe. As scientists fervidly search for an effective treatment and a vaccine, policymakers are implementing policies to dampen the economic hardship experienced by households and firms.

Such policies are more likely to succeed if their design reflects current economic conditions, but policymakers often find it difficult to learn about the economy in real time—even more so when a new and unpredictable disease has caused nearly all economic indicators to shatter long-standing records. For example, in April alone the U.S. economy lost as many jobs as had been gained during the previous decade. The labor market perked up in May and June, but it’s still too soon to accurately estimate when employment will return to pre-COVID-19 levels.

This article appeared in the Third Quarter 2020 edition of Economic Insights. Download and read the full issue.