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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Fed Chair Powell: Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress

by Calculated Risk on 2/23/2021 10:02:00 AM

From Fed Chair Jerome Powell: Monetary Policy Report – February 2021. A few excerpts:

The initial wave of COVID-19 infections led to a historic contraction in economic activity as a result of both mandatory restrictions and voluntary changes in behavior by households and businesses. The level of gross domestic product (GDP) fell a cumulative 10 percent over the first half of 2020, and the measured unemployment rate spiked to a post–World War II high of 14.8 percent in April. As mandatory restrictions were subsequently relaxed and households and firms adapted to pandemic conditions, many sectors of the economy recovered rapidly and unemployment fell back. Momentum slowed substantially in the late fall and early winter, however, as spending on many services contracted again amid a worsening of the pandemic. All told, GDP is currently estimated to have declined 2.5 percent over the four quarters of last year and payroll employment in January was almost 10 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels, while the unemployment rate remained elevated at 6.3 percent and the labor force participation rate was severely depressed. Job losses have been most severe and unemployment remains particularly elevated among Hispanics, African Americans, and other minority groups as well as those who hold lower-wage jobs.
And on high frequency indicators:
Outside of the labor market, several new high-frequency indicators have been useful in monitoring the massive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer spending. Weekly data from NPD (a market analytics firm) on nonfood retail sales captured in real time the dramatic and sudden drop in consumption in mid-March; the monthly Census Bureau data recorded that decline only with a lag (figure B, left panel).3 The NPD data also reflected how the income support payments to families, provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, rapidly affected consumer spending in mid-April. More recently, the NPD data showed some decline in consumption late last year, followed by a pickup in January after the passage of the most recent fiscal stimulus package. Several nontraditional data sources illustrate that services spending remains depressed as social distancing continues to restrain in-person activity
Fed Services Indicators Click on graph for larger image.

This graph from the report shows a few high frequency indicators (I post several every Monday morning including Hotel Occupancy and TSA data).