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W&D Webcast: Peter Linneman’s March Projections of Job Losses Are Panning Out

In the second of what has become a series of weekly webcasts presented by Walker & Dunlop and hosted by CEO Willy Walker, economist Peter Linneman warned on March 25 that 50 million Americans could lose their jobs in a matter of months if the COVID-19 shutdown went on that long.

Seven weeks later, with an estimated 40 million to 45 million people now out of work, the Linneman Associates founder said on this week’s webcast, “What we talked about on March 25 was basically what happened.”

For the May 13 webcast, Linneman agreed to fill in for the originally scheduled guest, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who was called to a meeting at the White House. He took the opportunity to provide his assessment of what has happened since late March with regard to controlling the pandemic and mitigating the economic fallout.

“The mission creep has been extraordinary,” Linneman said. Government actions to help ensure that testing and hospital capacity were adequate evolved into restrictions intended to limit community spread by limiting people’s movement outside of their homes.

He compared this “mission creep” to President John F. Kennedy’s sending a handful of military advisors to South Vietnam—a complement which had grown to some 100,000 U.S. troops a few years later. In both instances, Linneman said, the original mission was obscured.

Linneman divided the shutdown of much of the national economy into “don’t want to” and “can’t do” effects. The former is consumers deciding that they don’t feel comfortable with, say, travel or attending basketball games amid a heightened risk of becoming infected, while the latter is people not shopping or not going to the office because of government-issued stay-at-home orders.

“The ‘can’t do’ world is well-intended, but it’s crushing,” he said. He added that recovery will begin to occur as “can’t do” hands decision-making back to “don’t want to.”

Walker and Linneman took a sector-by-sector dive into where investment opportunities are likely to be found and how the recovery will play out. However, Linneman observed, “It’s hard to imagine any sector doing well with 25% unemployment.”

On-demand replays of the May 13 webcast are available by clicking here.

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About Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces. Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications. Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).