Household saving has soared in the United States and other high-income countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite widespread declines in wages and other private income streams. This post highlights the role of fiscal policy in driving the saving boom, through stepped-up social benefits and other income support measures. Indeed, in the United States, Japan, and Canada, government assistance has pushed household income above its pre-pandemic trajectory. We argue that the larger scale of government assistance in these countries helps explain why saving in these countries has risen more strongly than in the euro area. Going forward, how freely households spend out of their newly accumulated savings will be a key factor determining the strength of economic recoveries.
It may be hard to remember given the pandemic, but trade tensions between the United States and China eased in January 2020 with the inking of the Phase One agreement. Under the deal, China committed to a massive increase in its purchases of U.S. goods and services, with targets set for various types of products. At the time of the pact, the U.S. economy was operating near full capacity, and any increase in U.S. exports stemming from the pact would likely have resulted in only a small boost to growth. The environment is now starkly different, with the U.S. economy operating far below potential. While the promised increase in Chinese purchases seems unlikely to be achieved, any appreciable increase in exports from the agreement could deliver a meaningful boost to the economy.