Household saving soared in the United States and other high-income economies during the pandemic, as consumers cut back on spending while government policies supported incomes. More recently, saving behavior has diverged, with the U.S. saving rate dropping below its pre-pandemic average while saving rates elsewhere have remained above their pre-pandemic averages. As a result, U.S. consumers have been spending down the “excess savings” built up during the pandemic while the excess savings abroad remain untapped. This divergent behavior helps explain why U.S. GDP has returned to its pre-pandemic trend path even as GDP levels in other high-income economies continue to run well below trend.
Inflation remains elevated, labor markets are close to the strongest they have been, real consumption is up year-over year, but all of these observations are with respect to averages. Behind these macroeconomic trends can be widely varying experiences across different demographic and socioeconomic groups that make up our society. To provide researchers, practitioners, and the public with timely, regularly updated and comprehensive answers to these questions, we launched the Equitable Growth Indicators (EGIs)—a new tool to help foster the evolving discussion about economic inequality and equitable growth. To illustrate the utility of the EGIs, we provide examples of some striking differences in trends captured in the May release of the EGIs on inflation, real earnings, and real spending. More heterogeneity analysis and data are available at nyfed.org/egi.
The return of U.S. real GDP to its pre-pandemic level in the second quarter of this year was driven by consumer spending on goods. Such spending was well above its pre-pandemic path, while spending on services was well below. Despite the surge in goods spending, domestic manufacturing has increased only modestly, leaving most of the increase in demand being filled by imports. While higher imports have been a drag on growth, the size of this drag has been moderated by the value created by the domestic transportation, wholesale, and retail sectors in selling these goods. Going forward, a rebalancing of consumer spending toward services could give a lift to growth, by shifting demand toward purchases with little import content.
Small businesses not only account for 47 percent of U.S employment but also provide a pathway to success for minorities and women. During the coronavirus pandemic, these small businesses—especially those owned by minorities—were hard hit as consumers reduced spending disproportionately on services that require in-person physical interaction, such as hotels and restaurants. In response, the U.S. government launched the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide guaranteed and potentially forgivable small business loans. In this post, we examine financial technology (fintech) lenders participating in the PPP and find that, while disbursing only a small share of total loan amounts, they provide important support to minority business owners, who have in the past been underserved by the traditional banking industry.
This post is the first in a two-part series that seeks to understand whether consumer spending patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic evolved differentially across counties by race and income. As the pandemic hit and social distancing restrictions were put into place in March 2020, consumer spending plummeted. Subsequently, as social distancing restrictions began to be relaxed later in spring 2020, consumer spending started to rebound. We find that higher-income counties had a considerably steeper decline and a shallower recovery than low-income counties did. The differences by race were also sizeable as the pandemic struck but became considerably more muted after summer of 2020. The decline and the recovery until the end of summer were sharper for majority-minority (MM) than majority nonminority (MNM) counties, while both sets of counties showed similar growth in spending after that. The second post in this series highlights the goods and services that were most adversely affected (or “constrained”) by the pandemic. Then, differentiating households by income, that post explores which households were more exposed to these pandemic-constrained expenditure categories.
In our previous post, we looked at the effects that the reopening of state economies across the United States has had on consumer spending. We found a significant effect of reopening, especially regarding spending in restaurants and bars as well as in the healthcare sector. In this companion post, we focus specifically on small businesses, using two different sources of high-frequency data, and we employ a methodology similar to that of our previous post to study the effects of reopening on small business activity along various dimensions. Our results indicate that, much like for consumer spending, reopenings had positive and significant effects in the short term on small business revenues, the number of active merchants, and the number of employees working in small businesses. It is important to stress that we are not expressing any views in this post on the normative question of whether, when, or how states should loosen or tighten restrictions aimed at controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.
The spread of COVID-19 in the United States has had a profound impact on economic activity. Beginning in March, most states imposed severe restrictions on households and businesses to slow the spread of the virus. This was followed by a gradual loosening of restrictions (“reopening”) starting in April. As the virus has re-emerged over the last few weeks, a number of states have taken steps to reverse the reopening of their economies. For example, Texas and Florida closed bars again in June, and Arizona additionally paused operations of gyms and movie theatres. Taken together, these measures raise the question of how closures and reopenings affect consumer spending. In this post, we investigate how much consumer spending increased after the reopenings. It is important to stress that we are not expressing any views on the normative question of whether, when, or how states should loosen or tighten restrictions aimed at controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today we are releasing new data on individuals’ experiences and expectations regarding household spending. These data have been collected every four months since December 2014 as part of our Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE). The goal of this blog post is to introduce the SCE Household Spending Survey and highlight some of its features.
In a recent Liberty Street Economics post, I showed that one major category of consumer spending—spending on discretionary services such as recreation, transportation, and household utilities—behaved very differently in the 2007-09 recession and subsequent recovery than in previous business cycles: specifically, it fell more steeply and has recovered much more slowly.
The current economic expansion is now the third-longest expansion in U.S. history (based on National Bureau of Economic Research [NBER] dating of U.S. business cycles). Even so, average growth in this expansion—a 2.1 percent annual rate—has been extraordinarily weak.