You must believe in spring

The economic recovery no longer looks indestructible. A difficult winter looms.


In the summer and America’s economy roared back . After peaking at nearly 15% of the labour force, unemployment fell like a stone, while in the third quarter gdp bounced from its lockdown induced slump. The recovery of the world’s largest economy seemed oddly impervious to a second and then a third wave of coronavirus infections, even as economic activity in other parts of the world took a hit.


Yet there are growing concerns that the run of surprisingly good economic news is over, at least until a vaccine becomes widely available. In congressional testimony on December 1st Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, said the recovery was slowing, while the decision on the same day by a bipartisan group of senators to release a proposal for a stimulus package reflects the same fears. The jobs report for November, which was to be released shortly after The Economist went to press, will probably be a downbeat one by recent standards—and whatever it shows, it is old news, since the surveys for the report were taken some weeks ago. More up-to-date figures show that the recovery has lost steam. That is bad news for the millions who remain out of work, as well as the rapidly growing share of Americans who are living in poverty.

然而,越来越多的人担心,至少在疫苗大面积接种之前,经济方面令人惊讶的好消息已经没有了。美联储主席Jerome Powell ,12月1日在国会发言时说到,经济复苏正在放缓,在同一天,由两党议员组成的一个小组公布的经济刺激方案也反映了同样的担忧。在经济学人印发不久发布的11月份的就业报告中,以最近的情况来看,将很可能会是一个悲观的报告——而且,无论报告上显示了什么,这都是过去式了,因为报告的调查是从几周前开始的。更多的最新数据现实,经济复苏已经失去动力。这对数以百万计的失业人口以及生活在贫困中的美国人来说是一个坏消息。

Official statistics tend to be produced with long lags. So during the pandemic economists have turned to “high-frequency” data, largely produced by the private sector and generated by consumers’ and firms’ transactions, to measure the economy in real time. Wall Street banks now routinely provide clients with updates on everything from weekly electricity consumption to daily hotel bookings. The high-frequency data do not map onto the official kind perfectly. But they are useful for finding turning-points. They pinpointed the start of the downturn in March long before the official statistics could.


America is at another turning-point. STR, a data provider, finds that in the week ending November 21st hotels were running at 40% occupancy, down from 50% only weeks ago. The number of diners in restaurants has sharply declined in recent weeks, suggest data from OpenTable, a booking platform, with the fall even steeper in the states hardest hit by the virus. A recovery in air-passenger numbers appears to have ground to a halt as well.

美国正处在另外一个转折点上。数据提供商 STR 发现,截至 11月 21日的周末,酒店的入住率从几周前的 50% 下降到了 40% 。预定平台 OpenTable 的数据显示,最近几周,餐馆的用餐人数大幅下降,在受疫情影响最严重的州,下降幅度更大。航空旅客数量的恢复,似乎也陷入了停滞。

Other real-time measures capture economic activity more broadly. The share of small firms which have temporarily closed is probably rising. Consumer spending in the week ending November 22nd was down by 5% compared with the one before, according to Cardify, a data provider. Using mobility data from Google, The Economist has constructed an economic-activity index measuring visits to workplaces, transport hubs and places of retail and recreation. After rising steadily during the autumn, the index has fallen back—though America still looks better than Europe, where the economic-activity index has crashed as governments have imposed another round of lockdowns. jpMorgan Chase, a bank, produces an estimate of monthly American gdp growth from a range of real-time data. In a report published on December 2nd, it suggests that output stopped growing in November

其它的实时指标,捕捉了更广泛的经济活动。临时歇业的小公司的数量可能正在上升。根据数据供应商 Cardify 的数据,截至11月22日一周内消费者的支出比上一周相比下降了5%。利用谷歌提供的移动数据,经济学人构建了一个经济活动指数,衡量工作场所、交通枢纽、以及零售和娱乐等场所的访问量。该指数在秋季平问上升后,又回落了——尽管美国的数据看起来要比欧洲好看些,欧洲的指数随着政府实施了新一轮的封锁而暴跌。摩根大通银行,通过一系列的实时数据,估算了美国的月度GDP增长。在12月2日发表的一份报告中显示,产量在11月份停止了增长。

Three factors explain the slowdown. To some extent it was inevitable. Loosening lockdowns had allowed millions of people to return to work and start spending again. But there was no comparable loosening of coronavirus restrictions after that. So it was never realistic for America to repeat the 7.4% quarter-on-quarter gdp growth that it saw in July to September.

由三个因素可以解释这种放缓。在某种程度上,这是不可避免的。放松封锁让数百万的人们开始重新工作并开始消费。但是在那之后,再没有类似的新冠管制放松行为。所以,对美国来说,重现 7-9 月份那样季度 GDP 7.4% 的增长速度是不可能的。

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