Coronavirus: Get ready for a 'double-dip' recession - economist Cameron Bagrie

The recession we're heading into won't be the last we endure at the hands of COVID-19, a prominent economist is predicting.

Cameron Bagrie two weeks ago picked the economic recovery would be U-shaped: it would eventually get back to where it would have been without a pandemic, but it would take a while - perhaps a year or two.

But now he thinks it'll be W-shaped. That's when an economy contracts but quickly bounces back to growth - then once again contracts, before finally resuming normal growth. It's also known as a double-dip recession.

"There's that old saying, 'the good, the bad and the ugly'," he told The AM Show on Monday. "At the moment we've probably got the bad, the good and the ugly."

The bad is the economy fell harder than economists had expected, thanks to the strict lockdown - which while successful at wiping out the virus, also managed to take more than a few jobs down with it. 

"The bad news is Q1 GDP was weaker - we headed in a little bit harder," Bagrie explained. 

But - as some experts said would happen - being able to fully reopen the domestic economy sooner than most countries has seen a rebound in spending.

"The good news is, things in the past four weeks have looked a hell of a lot better than what we originally thought. It looks like there's a fair bit of pent-up demand, a little bit of exuberance and excitement we've contained this thing. So we've started to come back up - that middle part of the W, or what some people would call the V."

In a V-shaped recovery, this is where normal GDP growth would resume - this is the best-case scenario coming out of an economic shock like this one. It's not what Bagrie thinks will happen.

"If you step back, [the resurgence] doesn't feel like it's got too much substance... Immigration is going to be hellishly low for a long time. The global scene is looking increasingly troubling because we're not containing this thing internationally."

The pandemic is increasing faster than ever before overseas. India and Mexico are recording massive growth in confirmed cases, and the world's biggest economy - the US - has failed to get its numbers down. 

The number of daily cases in the US isn't coming down.
The number of daily cases in the US isn't coming down. Photo credit: Our World in Data

"It really does feel like the US has given up," University of Auckland microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles told the Washington Post at the weekend

"It's hard to see how this ends. There are just going to be more and more people infected, and more and more deaths. It's heartbreaking."

The outbreak of cases in Victoria across the ditch have "absolutely dashed" hopes of a trans-Tasman bubble in the near future, Bagrie says.

But New Zealand isn't entirely blameless if its economy does double-dip into recession. Bagrie says the recent isolation breaches and reports of shoddy oversight at hotels where new arrivals are meant to spend 14 days won't help consumer confidence, particularly with tourist operators set to rely on Kiwis getting out and about, with zero international tourists. 

"My personal view is New Zealand got a bit of a kick in the guts from what's happened in the past week, in regards to not containing our borders internally. That's worrying in regards to what we could be like in the second half of this year."