The US economy has come a long way since the pandemic began. In 2020, unemployment levels hit an all-time high and jobs were extremely hard to find. Things got so bad that lawmakers had no choice but to raise unemployment benefits and send stimulus checks to Americans’ bank accounts.
These days we are in a much different place. But despite that, most Americans don’t think the economy is in great shape. In fact, in a recent Pew Research Center poll, only 28% of Americans say current economic conditions are good or great.
Why a negative economic outlook?
A big reason why so many people think poorly of the economy right now comes down to inflation. In the aforementioned survey, 89% of consumers agree that food prices are worse now than they were a year ago, while 82% say the same about gas prices.
But while it’s easy to dismiss inflation as a bad thing, it can actually be a sign of a healthy economy. One of the main reasons the cost of living has risen so much right now is that there is more demand for goods and services than there is supply. Reading between the lines, demand wouldn’t be as high if people couldn’t afford to spend. The fact that they can is a sign that the economy is not doing badly.
There is also unemployment to consider. In December, the national unemployment rate hit its lowest level since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, workers are so confident in their ability to find work that they are quitting their jobs in droves in search of better opportunities. This too is a sign of a flourishing economy.
Will Omicron make things worse?
The omicron surge has been happening for weeks, and health experts say it has already peaked in some parts of the country. Meanwhile, health experts expect the overall surge to be relatively short-lived.
So far, omicron hasn’t caused a massive wave of shutdowns and unemployment as some initially feared. And since the worst may be over in some corners of the country, we can hope that it won’t wreak too much economic havoc in the coming months.
The reality is that we have different tools to fight omicron that didn’t exist earlier in the pandemic – vaccines, treatments, and greater availability of quality masks. Add government programs to make testing and masks more accessible, and we’re in a better position to respond to the outbreak as a whole.
What does the economy have in store for us in 2022?
It is difficult to predict exactly how economic conditions will evolve for the rest of the year. The hope is that inflation levels will start to come down and then come down so that consumers aren’t as financially stressed. Meanwhile, job growth could remain strong and unemployment levels could slowly but surely continue to decline if consumers continue to spend and businesses continue to hire.
There are many reasons to be optimistic about the economy in general in 2022. Although the public may have a negative view of it at the moment, this outlook could change as the year progresses.
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