COVID-19

How will COVID-19 affect consumer spending?

Andy Uhler Feb 28, 2020
HTML EMBED:
COPY
January’s report may not reflect consumer spending in the wake of COVID-19. Scott Heins/Getty Images
COVID-19

How will COVID-19 affect consumer spending?

Andy Uhler Feb 28, 2020
January’s report may not reflect consumer spending in the wake of COVID-19. Scott Heins/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Consumer spending numbers for January came out Friday, a mere 0.2% bump in January. That’s the month when the coronavirus headlines started coming. Incomes did jump upward, however — 0.6%, the biggest gain in nearly a year.

Consumers have been responsible for a lot of the recent economic growth. But now we’re dealing with a global health concern.

Consumer spending makes up about 70% of the U.S. economy, so any disruption would have dire effects on growth. But Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, says consumers are still in a good place right now. 

He said Americans are saving at almost 8%, up from about 6% in 2009. And when people save, they also may be spending.

“Their income has exceeded their consumption in the last few quarters, which leaves a net benefit of saving,” Kleinhenz said. He added that low interest rates are also driving people to buy homes and refinance their mortgages

But January’s report may not reflect consumer spending in the wake of COVID-19 which, said Matthew Luzzetti, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, is the real wild card right now.

“With a pretty resilient labor market, you would think that the consumer outlook remains sturdy, except for these worries about the impact of the coronavirus,” Luzzetti said.

He said spending on things like eating out, concerts, live sporting events and other entertainment could be the first to suffer — even without a broad outbreak in the United States.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the latest on the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

As of now, those $600-a-week payments will stop at the end of July. For many, unemployment payments have been a lifeline, but one that is about to end, if nothing changes. The debate over whether or not to extend these benefits continues among lawmakers.

With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, are restaurants and bars shutting back down?

The latest jobs report shows that 4.8 million Americans went back to work in June. More than 30% of those job gains were from bars and restaurants. But those industries are in trouble again. For example, because of the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, increased restrictions on restaurant capacities and closed bars. It’s created a logistical nightmare.

Which businesses got Paycheck Protection Program loans?

The numbers are in — well, at least in part. The federal government has released the names of companies that received loans of $150,000 or more through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Some of the companies people are surprised got loans include Kanye West’s fashion line, Yeezy, TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang’s. The companies you might not recognize, particularly some smaller businesses, were able to hire back staff or partially reopen thanks to the loans.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.