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Healthy US economy failed to narrow racial gaps in 2019 – The Battlefords News-Optimist

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WASHINGTON — The solid growth that the United States enjoyed before the viral pandemic paralyzed the economy this spring failed to reduce racial disparities in Americans’ income and wealth from 2016 through 2019, according to a Federal Reserve report Monday.

Though Black and Hispanic households reported sharper gains in wealth than white households did, those increases weren’t enough to noticeably narrow the racial gaps. The typical white family possessed eight times the wealth of Black families and five times the wealth of Hispanic families in 2019, the Fed said.

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The Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, released every three years, analyzed incomes and wealth in 2019. The survey found that income for the typical U.S. family rose 5%, adjusted for inflation, from 2016 to 2019 to $58,600. That was weaker than the 9% income gain the typical family received from 2013 through 2016.

The survey provides a trove of information on family finances in the United States, from the percentage of households that own stock (53%) to the proportion that have a retirement account (50%).

While the report shows increases in income and wealth for lower-income and Black families, many economists worry that the pandemic has reversed those gains. Job losses this year have been concentrated among lower-income workers in the restaurant, hotel, retail and travel industries. Those workers are disproportionately non-white.

Some measures did show a narrowing of income disparities. Average income among the wealthiest one-tenth of American families fell 6%, largely because of a steep fall among the richest 1%, Federal Reserve economists said. By contrast, average incomes among the bottom 60% of families rose.

Yet average figures can be skewed by huge incomes at the very top. The Fed report noted, for example, that while average incomes for all families fell 3% from 2016 through 2019, excluding the richest 1%, average incomes rose 3.1%. Income for the richest Americans can fluctuate more sharply year to year than income for lower-income earners, Fed economists said, and likely fell because of smaller gains from stock, bond and property sales.

Economists typically look at median incomes, which reflect the midpoint of all earners, as a way to filter out the extremes. Median income among the poorest one-fifth of Americans rose 3%, while median income for the richest one-tenth increased 6%, the Fed said.

The median family income for whites grew 6%. For Black households, it was slightly better at 7%. For Hispanic families, incomes fell 1%. Median income for white families last year was $69,000, compared with $40,300 for Black families and $40,700 for Hispanics.

Poorer Americans and Black and Hispanic households did gain wealth from 2016 through 2019, mostly from an increase in home ownership and home values. But those increases came from such low levels that they didn’t much narrow overall income disparities, the Fed said.

Black households, for example, reported a 33% gain in net worth and Hispanic families 65%. Wealth in white households increased just 3%. While encouraging, median wealth for white families in 2019 was still much higher, at $188,200, compared with $24,100 for Black families and $36,200 for Hispanics.

Economic research has found that differences in inheritances are a major factor behind the racial wealth gap. A separate Fed note released Monday found that 30% of white families report receiving an inheritance — three times the corresponding proportion of Black families and four times that of Hispanic families.

The richest 1% of Americans owned one-third of the nation’s wealth in 2019, down slightly from nearly four-fifths in 2016. But wealth grew for the next-richest 9% of the population, the Fed said in another research note. So that the richest one-tenth of families owned 71% of wealth, unchanged from 2016.

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Japan raises view on demand, but says economy in severe situation – SaltWire Network

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By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government upgraded its view on consumption in a monthly report in October on stronger demand for electronics and higher travel spending, but cautioned broader economic conditions remained severe due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities maintained their assessment that the world’s third-largest economy was showing signs of picking up from the fallout of COVID-19, which included a hit to Japan’s exports from a slump in global demand.

“The Japanese economy remains in a severe situation due to the novel coronavirus, but it is showing signs of picking up,” the government said in its October economic report.

The economy suffered its worst postwar contraction in the second quarter and analysts expect any rebound to be modest.

The government already has announced $2.2 trillion in economic stimulus in response to the virus crisis, and analysts polled by Reuters said it should compile a third extra budget for the current fiscal year.

The government said the impact from policy measures at home and improvement in economic activity overseas supported hopes for a continued rebound in the economy.

But it also flagged the risk that coronavirus infections could further weigh on domestic and overseas economies.

While many countries eased coronavirus restrictions earlier this year, some have had to resume curbs as they face a second wave of infections.

Japan’s government upgraded its view on private consumption for the first time in seven months due to more robust domestic demand for household electronics and higher nationwide hotel occupancy rates, especially in Hokkaido in northern Japan.

“It’s very encouraging that consumption is picking up,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a news conference after the cabinet approved the report.

“While capital spending, exports, production and employment are improving, it of course can’t be said (economic conditions) have completely recovered so the overall assessment was left unchanged,” he said.

The government stuck to its assessment that exports are picking up, according to the report.

But it downgraded its view on imports for the first time in seven months due to relatively weak shipments from the United States and the Asian region, a Cabinet Office official said.

The government’s assessment of the remaining components in the report remained unchanged.

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Kim Coghill)

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Japan raises view on demand, but says economy in severe situation – The Journal Pioneer

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By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government upgraded its view on consumption in a monthly report in October on stronger demand for electronics and higher travel spending, but cautioned broader economic conditions remained severe due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities maintained their assessment that the world’s third-largest economy was showing signs of picking up from the fallout of COVID-19, which included a hit to Japan’s exports from a slump in global demand.

“The Japanese economy remains in a severe situation due to the novel coronavirus, but it is showing signs of picking up,” the government said in its October economic report.

The economy suffered its worst postwar contraction in the second quarter and analysts expect any rebound to be modest.

The government already has announced $2.2 trillion in economic stimulus in response to the virus crisis, and analysts polled by Reuters said it should compile a third extra budget for the current fiscal year.

The government said the impact from policy measures at home and improvement in economic activity overseas supported hopes for a continued rebound in the economy.

But it also flagged the risk that coronavirus infections could further weigh on domestic and overseas economies.

While many countries eased coronavirus restrictions earlier this year, some have had to resume curbs as they face a second wave of infections.

Japan’s government upgraded its view on private consumption for the first time in seven months due to more robust domestic demand for household electronics and higher nationwide hotel occupancy rates, especially in Hokkaido in northern Japan.

“It’s very encouraging that consumption is picking up,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a news conference after the cabinet approved the report.

“While capital spending, exports, production and employment are improving, it of course can’t be said (economic conditions) have completely recovered so the overall assessment was left unchanged,” he said.

The government stuck to its assessment that exports are picking up, according to the report.

But it downgraded its view on imports for the first time in seven months due to relatively weak shipments from the United States and the Asian region, a Cabinet Office official said.

The government’s assessment of the remaining components in the report remained unchanged.

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Kim Coghill)

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Four ways to rescue the economy from the pandemic – The Conversation US

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In many western countries, COVID-19 infection rates are rising again. For some like the UK, France and Spain, it appears that the second wave of the pandemic is already here. The science also tells us that we may see a further upsurge in 2021. We do not know how effective early vaccines will be, and the rollout of vaccination programmes will be gradual.

A major issue for governments is the extent to which they have the fiscal firepower to protect jobs and economic activity. In the UK, the government’s spring and summer measures to protect businesses and jobs were expected to add £192 billion to the budget deficit, increasing the debt-to-GDP ratio from 85.4% in 2019 to 106.4% by March 2021.

These are the highest levels of debt since the early 1960s, and record budget deficit levels for peacetime. And yet the second wave of COVID-19 is going to strain the fiscal response much further. Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s newly revamped job support scheme and other measures to help businesses suffering under the latest restrictions will cost further billions.

To get a possible sense of where this might be heading, the Institute for Fiscal Studies in June modelled for a scenario in which there was a second wave of COVID-19 in the fourth quarter of 2020 and targeted regional lockdowns in the first half of 2021. It predicted that this would produce a budget deficit of over 20% of GDP this year – equivalent to second world war levels – and a debt-to-GDP ratio of nearly 120% by 2024-25.

If this is the kind of situation that many countries are now facing, what options are open to governments, and what key indicators should they focus on?

1. Growth first, sound money second

Governments must prioritise resuming economic growth from 2021 onwards. Put simply, this will require them to go easy on raising taxes or cutting spending quickly to stabilise the debt-to-GDP level. The fiscal correction which would be required to stabilise public finances will be less if a faster recovery can be engineered.

Governments must focus on public investments, particularly those aimed at boosting research and development spending and productivity growth. Many observers have recommended that governments put money into greening the economy. Not only will this stimulate growth in sectors for the future, it will also help address the climate crisis.

2. Build confidence

There needs to be a clear strategy to restore economic confidence, which is inextricably linked to people’s confidence in how the pandemic and its economic fallout is being managed. Even before the second wave took hold, it was clear that the economic recovery was slowing during the summer in many advanced economies.

The OECD reported in September that Google data on people’s shopping and recreational activity (as a proxy for what they are consuming from social businesses) had not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Order books in most advanced economies (except China) did not fully recover either.

Retail is still a hard sell (unless you’re Amazon).
EPA

It’s clear that consumer and business confidence cannot fully bounce back until uncertainty on the duration of the pandemic begins to subside. This is one reason why a number of economists have urged countries like the UK, where the economic hit has been worse, to focus on protecting employment. The furlough scheme in the UK should probably have been extended into this second wave, and the chancellor’s latest expansion of the job support scheme looks like a partial U-turn.

3. Test and trace still vital

Linked to this need to reduce uncertainty, there is no trade-off between health and the economy. Countries which have done better at keeping infection rates low have also done well at reducing the economic slump.

Some of that success with infections may have been good fortune, or early action in closing travel down quickly in early 2020. But countries such as Finland and Germany also had a strong capacity for testing and tracing and very quickly built it up further. Even at this stage, countries like the UK need to look at whether test and trace can be quickly improved, even at the cost of increased investment.

4. More targeted support

As the recovery begins to strengthen during 2021, a key conundrum for policymakers will be whether to prioritise stimulating aggregate demand in the economy, such as using tax cuts, or more targeted support measures for particular sectors or parts of the workforce.

It has recently been said that the recovery after a second wave might be more W-shaped as a whole, but K-shaped for individual sectors. In other words, while sectors like online retail and technology/software are booming, others like conventional retail, travel and hospitality will take a long time to recover.

Business support may need to switch to a more sectoral approach. The UK has done a little here with the “eat out to help out” scheme and now small monthly grants for firms in sectors like hospitality and leisure.

Hotel concierge talking to a taxi driver
Sectors like hospitality need more help than others.
EPA

Similarly, governments will have to focus their support on those in the labour market for whom the “scarring effects” of unemployment will be most serious. For instance, the crisis will particularly affect the job prospects of young people whose transition from education to work is being disrupted. At the recovery stage, support will therefore need to be switched to job creation – for example, by lowering employer national insurance contributions for employers creating new jobs.

We are entering a pivotal period in our fight against COVID-19. While there is no denying the challenges ahead, we are also better prepared and more knowledgeable than in March. Policymakers must use this to their advantage and craft an economic response which is comprehensive and nimble in equal measure.

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