How does the COVID-19 shutdown compare to the Great Depression?

With the economy sinking and unemployment soaring, economists say this is the worst recession since the Great Depression.

But how does it really stack up?


The stock market crashed in 1929, sinking the U.S. into the Great Depression. University of Central Florida economist Dr. Sean Snaith said the problem was then compounded by the Federal Reserve.

“The Great Depression was really a compound mixture of economic financial and Acts of God that just all hit at the same time,” he said.

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In addition, drought struck part of the country. In Florida, people were already dealing with their own economic problems. Two Category 4 hurricanes slammed the state in 1926 and 1928, respectively.

The citrus industry was pummeled a year later after a Mediterranean fruit fly invasion, which cut citrus production by more than half.

Today, with the coronavirus, agriculture is taking a hit too, but for a different reason. Restaurants closed and farmers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in produce that’s now either being donated to food banks, or simply tossed out.

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“The recession were in now is similar to the Great Depression in terms of its depth,” Snaith said. “It is the worst recession since the Great Depression, although it's not going to be nearly as bad.”

Snaith said that prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the economy was thriving. And unlike the Great Depression, the big dip into the recession was a result of our own policy decisions to shut down.

Jeff Deal,

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

Adam Poulisse,

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.