The US could be on the brink of slipping back into a recession. Along with Europe, the US economy has struggled during the pandemic, and surging outbreaks this winter have only added more stress to the already vulnerable market, according to Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody’s Analytics. On CBRE’s podcast The Weekly Take, Zandi discussed the current state of the global economy and gave his outlook for 2021.
“At this point in time, the US and global economies are struggling,” Zandi said on the podcast. “The surging pandemic, the intensification of infections, hospitalizations and deaths, is doing some damage, some real damage, to the economy at this point. And I think I would go so far as to say that the economy is at risk of backtracking here and going back into recession.”
Zandi noted the recent unemployment data as one example of the weak economy. In early December, there were 853,000 new unemployment claims, an increase of 137,000 from the previous month and the highest number since mid-September. “Now that’s weekly data and it bounces around quite a bit week to week, but I think it was a pretty definitive increase and is consistent with the weakening economy and job growth we saw for November,” adds Zandi.
The country’s handling of the pandemic is the root cause for these economic woes—and it isn’t only the US. The resurgence of coronavirus cases has added pressure to the economy throughout the world, with one exception: Asia. The Asian region, which includes Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and China, has handled the pandemic much differently than the rest of the world, and it is reaping the benefits.
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“Asia has navigated the health care crisis well,” says Zandi. “They locked down like we did back in the spring and did a marvelous job of testing and tracing. And that has worked. They’ve contained the virus and their economies have come back. We here have botched it badly and we’re paying a price.”
As a result of the recent surge, the next several months is going to be challenging in the US. However, there is good news. Congress passed a new stimulus bill, which will help, and the vaccine is already being distributed. Although a lot depends on adoption of the vaccine, Zandi says that it is a good sign the pandemic will come to an end sometime next year. “I’m hopeful that as we make our way towards the summer and certainly by the end of next year,” he says. “So, if we reconvene a year from now at this event, I think we’ll feel much better about things.”