COVID-19

Could the third quarter of this year be the “fastest-growing in U.S. history”?

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst May 26, 2020
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Several people in the Trump administration, including White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, above, have said that there could be historic growth in the third quarter of this year. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
COVID-19

Could the third quarter of this year be the “fastest-growing in U.S. history”?

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst May 26, 2020
Heard on:
Several people in the Trump administration, including White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, above, have said that there could be historic growth in the third quarter of this year. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
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Speaking to Fox News on Tuesday morning, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said “the third quarter of this year could be the fastest-growing quarter in U.S. history.”

With retail sales down more than 16% last month, the unemployment rate up where it hasn’t been since the Great Depression, and so much uncertainty about what will happen as states reopen their economies, could that be true?

We called economist Megan Greene, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, to help us out. 

“So I think that as the economy opens up, we should see the economic data improve,” Greene said. “Depending on how you’re looking at that data, it will either improve a little or it will improve a lot.” 

Quarterly economic growth, the increase in gross domestic product, is typically expressed as a percentage. For example, the Congressional Budget Office predicts there could be a 5.4% increase in GDP in the third quarter of 2020. However, that will be a percentage increase from the second quarter of this year, which is widely expected to be one of the worst in U.S. history

“The next quarter compared to this one will look really good because it’s compared to a really bad quarter,” Greene said. “What we need to do is compare where we are right now to where we were before this crisis even started.” 

Click the audio player above to hear the full explanation. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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