Decoding the Covid economy contradiction on Thanksgiving

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There’s plenty of cause for concern on social, political and health issues. Covid-19 cases are up in most states, signaling yet again that the virus is here to stay. A series of court cases proved the national reckoning on issues of race is as complicated and unsolvable as ever.
And looming behind every story on politics is the expected, attempted comeback of former President Donald Trump, who this time last year was plotting a coup. Sometimes these stories dovetail, as when Trump met with Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who was recently acquitted after killing two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer.
On Wednesday, meanwhile, President Joe Biden pointed to the conviction of three White men in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, as proof that “our justice system (is) doing its job.”

What may touch more Americans more directly every day, however, is the state of the US economy.

Here is the disconnect between the data and daily life: People are feeling the pinch due to rising costs at the gas pump and the grocery store even when there’s a lot of very good economic news to be thankful for.

First, pretty much anyone who wants a job has one. The government recorded just 199,000 new jobless claims last week, the lowest since 1969. Meanwhile, a key measure of inflation rose to a 31-year high in October.
CNN’s Christine Romans, in a video report, described this Covid-19 pandemic contradiction.

I’ve borrowed much of her language for this list of arguably good news, which includes:

  • US industrial output is racing ahead above pre-pandemic levels.
  • Auto manufacturing bounced back last month and factory output would have been even stronger if not for hiccups in the corporate supply chain.
  • Corporate profits are enviable and big companies are navigating supply chain woes, passing along higher costs to customers and even padding their profit margins along the way.
  • The biggest publicly traded companies have bigger profit margins today than before the pandemic, and your retirement account probably shows it.
  • The Dow is up 17% this year and the S&P 500 is up 25%. If you step back farther since the market crashed in 2020, some averages have doubled.
  • Workers have the upper hand. You’ve heard it called the “Great Resignation” — Americans quitting their jobs in record numbers. In September, 4.4 million jumped ship, and economists say many are taking better jobs with higher pay and starting bonuses.
  • Paychecks are fatter after years of sluggish wage growth, especially for low-wage workers. Wage growth is nearing 5%.
  • Americans are saving. Thanks to higher pay, Covid-19 stimulus checks and child tax credits, Americans have an excess $2.3 trillion in savings since the crisis began. JP Morgan says its median checking account balance is 50% higher this year than in 2019.
  • The economy is adding jobs. Overall, 5.8 million jobs were added this year.

There is certainly a contradiction here if the national mood is down while the economic indicators are up.

In a recent CBS…



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