December’s numbers were terrible, but the economy has a clear path to health

It seems appropriate that Job numbers For the last months of 2020 it will be as bad as the year as a whole.

It is fair to say that the loss of 140,000 jobs in December indicates the reversal of the economic recovery that occurred in the summer and fall. Other numbers In a report Friday Basically, this bleak picture confirms the continuing decline of the adult population in the workforce. In the debate over which letter of the alphabet best describes the pattern of the 2020 economy, the December numbers It largely excludes “V.”

But. But.

The details of this report, along with everything else about economic policy and financial markets, make the case even more optimistic. Thanks to monetary and fiscal stimulus, 2021 has a chance to be a remarkable recovery year; The delayed effects of the market boom over the past few months; Above all, the possibility of the spread of vaccination against the Corona virus.

December’s figures indicate the jobs crisis has been contained in sectors dealing with the direct effects of pandemic-related shutdowns. In contrast to the data from Rabi` 2020, The latest numbers are inconsistent with the kind of widespread absence of demand in the economy that has caused the recovery from the last few recessions to be so long and slow.

The biggest job losses in December were in the entertainment and hospitality sector, a sector that shed 498,000 jobs. Think what this number represents: countless restaurants, hotels, performance stages, and yards closed; Hundreds of thousands of people have returned to unemployment rolls, unsure when they will be able to resume work.

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The good news is we know how and when these jobs can come back. If enough Americans were vaccinated, they would likely feel comfortable returning to normal patterns of recreational activity. An outright boom in those sectors could happen later this year. Americans’ savings Through the roof, It is easy to imagine the pent-up demand for travel, concerts, and the like.

Other sectors less directly affected by public health concerns – industries that have only been in recessionary levels A few months ago – Keep getting better. They don’t necessarily return to pre-pandemic levels, but they are on their way to getting there long ago.

Construction labor, for example, is still 3 percent below pre-pandemic levels, but the sector added 51,000 jobs in December. At this pace, you will return to full health in the spring. The story is similar for manufacturing jobs, still down 4 percent from February but adding 38,000 jobs in December.

The list of sectors that fit this basic pattern – still at levels in line with the recession but making their way back steadily – is long, and includes industries as diverse as truck transportation, property rental, professional and business services.

Both the policy and market environment should create a tailwind for these sectors in 2021, helping them return to full health faster.

The stock market boom does not translate into more economic activity overnight. But as corporate executives create their own capital spending plans and as consumers make their own spending decisions, rising equity tends to have a positive effect. This means that the positive effects of new market rallies in recent weeks should begin to emerge as public health concerns subside.

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The employment numbers for December cover the period before Congress reaches a $ 900 billion pandemic aid package. Among other things, the bill includes improved unemployment benefits that will help hundreds of thousands of workers whose jobs disappeared in December, as well as $ 600 checks that will boost consumer spending in the coming months.

Moreover, the Democratic victories in Georgia this week and the resulting majority in the Senate make those checks likely to increase to $ 2,000 per person. It also means that the Biden administration will have the flexibility to pursue a more ambitious agenda, including infrastructure spending, which should support overall economic activity.

The Democratic Congress is also likely to provide more aid to states, helping one other area of ​​job loss in December besides entertainment and hospitality (state and local governments cut 51,000 jobs last month).

A lot can still be wrong, like a prolonged failure to roll out a vaccine or a market correction that hurts business and consumer confidence. None of this reduces the pain of the millions of Americans who remain unemployed.

But put it all together, and more than at any time since the start of the pandemic, the economy has a clear path back to full health.

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