The latest news on inflation and unemployment seem to be pointing to a gathering storm in the U.S. economy. A lot of readers are wondering: Just how bad is this downturn going to be?

Economic forecasters and weather forecasters have a few things in common. Since no one can see into the future, both kinds of forecasters look at the forces that have created and shaped storms in the past — and then look at current data to help guide their predictions. When you see a sharp drop in the barometer, it’s a pretty good bet there’s a storm coming.
So we’re not saying there won’t be a severe downturn; the point is that no one knows. It’s just too early to know how bad it will be. And it would have to get a whole lot worse to measure up to the biggest economic storms we’ve been through.