Economy: Inflation Concerns Are Growing



It has been over a year since the COVID-19
recession began in February of 2020. After going
through a brutal loss of 31.4% in the second quarter
and an immediate, rapid rebound of 33.4% in the
third quarter last year, the economy appears headed
for a recovery. Overall, the U.S. economy shrank by
3.5% in 2020, compared to 2019. This was the worst
growth since one year after World War II. In
January, personal income rose 10% and consumer
spending jumped by 2.4%, the biggest increase since
June of 2020, both of which mostly resulted from the
COVID-19 relief payments by Congress. Housing
markets are still robust, partly supported by low
mortgage rates.
However, the employment report in January showed
weaker-than-expected data. The unemployment rate
fell to 6.3% from 6.7% mostly due to a decrease in
the labor force (i.e. people gave up looking for jobs).
The economy gained 49,000 jobs, which was lower
than expected. Inflation, currently at 1.5%, is
persistently below the Fed’s average goal of 2%.
Having said that, the outlook on the U.S. economy
has improved as daily COVID-19 infection cases are
falling and more dosages of the vaccines are being
administered. In addition, $1.9 trillion is ready to be
pumped into the economy once a third COVID-19

relief bill passes Congress. However, the recovery
rate will not be as fast as the rate seen in the third
quarter of the previous year.

Author(s): Julie Bae

Publication Date: February 2021

Publication Site: Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability