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Economy’s Big Rebound Leaves a Shortfall as Progress Slows

U.S. economic output increased at the fastest pace on record last quarter as businesses began to reopen and customers returned to stores. But the economy has climbed only partway out of its pandemic-induced hole, and progress is slowing.

Gross domestic product grew 7.4 percent in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The gain, the equivalent of 33.1 percent on an annualized basis, was by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II.

The rebound was fueled in part by trillions of dollars in federal assistance to households and businesses. That aid has since dried up, even as the recovery remains far from complete: The economy in the third quarter was 3.5 percent smaller than at the end of 2019, before the pandemic. By comparison, G.D.P. shrank 4 percent over the entire year and a half of the Great Recession a decade ago.

The report was the last major piece of economic data before the presidential election on Tuesday. President Trump’s campaign hailed the big gain as “absolute validation” of the administration’s policies, while the campaign of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. dismissed it as a “partial return” that was already fading.

G.D.P. grew 7.4% in the third quarter.




2019 Q4 LEVEL

$20 trillion

+7.4%

Q2 to Q3

–9.0%

Q1 to Q2

15

10

Gross domestic product, adjusted

for inflation and seasonality, at

annual rates

5

’15

’16

’17

’18

’19

’20

2019 Q4 LEVEL

$20 trillion

+7.4%

Q2 to Q3

–9.0%

Q1 to Q2

15

10

Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation

and seasonality, at annual rates

5

’15

’16

’17

’18

’19

’20


Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

By Ella Koeze

Economists said the third-quarter figures revealed less about the strength of the recovery than about the severity of the collapse that preceded it. G.D.P. fell 1.3 percent in the first quarter and 9 percent in the second as the pandemic forced widespread business closures. A big rebound was inevitable once the economy began to reopen. The challenge is what comes next.

“The reason we had such a big bounce is that the economy went from closed to partially open,” said Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at Bank of America. “The easy growth was exhausted, and now the hard work has to be done in terms of fully healing.”

There are signs that the recovery is losing steam. Industrial production fell in September, and job growth has cooled, even as a growing list of major corporations have announced new rounds of large-scale layoffs and furloughs. Most economists expect the slowdown to worsen in the final three months of the year as virus cases rise and federal assistance fades.

Forecasts for the next G.D.P. report are highly uncertain this early in the quarter. But most forecasters expect growth to slow to about 1 to 1.5 percent, with some economists anticipating even weaker results. That would leave the economy about 2.5 percent smaller than before the pandemic.

Image
Credit…Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

A 2.5 percent contraction would be the equivalent of a relatively typical recession — smaller than the Great Recession but substantially worse than the mild downturns of the early 1990s and 2000s.

“We’re no longer in unprecedented territory, but this is still a deep gash in our economy,” said Tara Sinclair, a George Washington University economist who studies recessions.

What is troubling, Ms. Sinclair said, is that after the initial bounce, the economy appears to be falling into a pattern that has become familiar in recent decades: a steep drop in a recession, followed by a painfully slow rebound. Congress’s failure to provide more stimulus money, she said, makes a weak recovery more likely.

“Without any further support, it’s going to be a slog,” she said.

Separate data released by the Labor Department on Thursday showed that 732,000 workers filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week, a decrease of about 28,000 from the week before. New claims have fallen only gradually in recent weeks and remain extraordinarily high by historical standards. And millions of people who lost jobs earlier in the pandemic remain unemployed.

“We’re moving in the right direction, but not nearly as quickly as we need,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, a labor market economist for the Indeed Hiring Lab. “We need to recover quicker so that we don’t have people transitioning to long-term unemployment.”

Laura Mayer was furloughed in March from her job as the general manager at Public House, a restaurant at Oracle Park, the San Francisco Giants’ baseball stadium. At the end of September, her furlough turned into a permanent layoff.

Federal aid helped Ms. Mayer, 56, get through the early months of the pandemic. She received $450 a week in state unemployment benefits, plus $600 a week in supplemental benefits from the federal government. Her partner, who had also lost his restaurant job, received benefits, too.

Image

Credit…Sarahbeth Maney for The New York Times

But the $600 supplement expired at the end of July, and Congress has failed to agree on a plan to replace it. Ms. Mayer’s state benefits ran out at the end of September — the same week her job loss turned permanent — and a 13-week federal extension will expire in December, leaving her with no income. Her partner, Steven Flamm, found a restaurant job in June, but at 25 hours a week, it isn’t enough to sustain them both.

“All that I’ve built my whole life just got wiped out,” Ms. Mayer said. “I just don’t know what my future is, and I think that’s the scariest part.”

The G.D.P. report released on Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make clear that the pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on low-wage workers, particularly on Black and Hispanic women. Those workers bore the brunt of the job losses early in the crisis and have continued to struggle. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

Many white-collar professionals held on to their jobs and have been able to shore up their savings as they cut spending on vacations and restaurant meals during the pandemic. And while the stock market has fallen in recent days, it has recovered far more quickly than the economy as a whole.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

Consumer spending drove the recovery in the third quarter, rising nearly 9 percent. But that rebound, too, has been uneven, with some sectors seeing big gains and others remaining all but shut down.

Services took the biggest hit.




+6.7%

from the end

of 2019

Percent change in

consumer spending

from the last quarter

of 2019

+5%

Goods

0

−5

–7.7%

Services

−10

−15

Q4

2019

Q1

2020

Q2

Q3

+6.7%

from the end

of 2019

+5%

Goods

Percent change in consumer spending

from the last quarter of 2019

0

−5

–7.7%

Services

−10

−15

4th quarter

2019

1st quarter

2020

2nd quarter

3rd quarter


Note: Consumer spending is measured in annual rates and adjusted for inflation and seasonality.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

By Ella Koeze

Consumer spending on goods last quarter rose sharply, nearly 10 percent, more than enough to offset a relatively mild 2.8 percent decline in the spring. Spending on durable goods was particularly strong as Americans rushed to buy cars, recreational vehicles and equipment for their new homebound lifestyles.

Spending on services, on the other hand, collapsed in the second quarter, falling 12.7 percent as consumers abandoned restaurant meals, gym classes and family vacations. Services spending rebounded 8.5 percent last quarter but remains 7.7 percent below its pre-pandemic level.

Two Wisconsin businesses illustrate the diverging paths of the two sectors.

When U.S. auto plants shut down last spring, it meant an immediate loss of business for Husco International, a manufacturer of hydraulic and electromechanical components for cars and other equipment. The company cut back production and furloughed many of its workers.

But by the end of May, car factories were humming again, and Husco’s business had begun to bounce back. In September, its automotive division had its best month on record.

Austin Ramirez, the company’s president and chief executive, said he still expected sales to be down about 10 percent for the full year. Despite September’s strong results, the pandemic and the economic weakness it has wrought are dragging down demand. And the virus is causing other complications, leading to more employee absences. But the damage to his business is not nearly as severe as in the recession a decade ago.

Image

Credit…David Kasnic for The New York Times

“In a cyclical business like ours, this has actually been a fairly mild recession that we’ve had tools to manage,” Mr. Ramirez said.

For Becky Cooper, it is a different story. Bounce Milwaukee, the family entertainment center that she owns with her husband, shut down in March and has yet to reopen. They experimented over the summer with selling takeout pizza and offering drive-in movies in the parking lot, but sales weren’t enough to offset costs.

The couple began the year dreaming up plans for what they would do once they paid off the Small Business Administration loan they used to open the business six years ago. Instead, they had to drain their bank accounts and take on more debt. Now, with Covid-19 cases spiking in Wisconsin, they don’t know when they will be able to welcome customers again — or whether they can hold out until then.

“I’m watching those numbers go up and just feeling so powerless,” Ms. Cooper said. “The beginning of March seems almost insanely optimistic to me, and I don’t see how much past that we could possibly go.”

Gillian Friedman and Jeanna Smialek contributed reporting.

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Why the Best G.D.P. Report Ever Won’t Mean the Economy Has Healed

The United States almost certainly just experienced its fastest three months of economic growth on record. That doesn’t mean the economy is strong.

The Commerce Department on Thursday will release its preliminary estimate of economic growth for the third quarter. Economists surveyed by FactSet expect it to show that gross domestic product — the broadest measure of goods and services produced in the United States — grew about 7 percent from the second quarter, or 30 percent on an annualized basis (more about that in a bit).

If those forecasts are even close to correct, it would represent the fastest growth since reliable records began after World War II. Until now, the best quarter was a 3.9 percent gain (16.7 percent annualized) in 1950.

This G.D.P. report will be particularly closely watched, arriving as the last major piece of economic data before Election Day next Tuesday.

But it doesn’t make sense to think about Thursday’s report in isolation. The third quarter’s record-setting growth is effectively an echo of the second quarter’s equally unprecedented contraction, when business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders led gross domestic product to fall by 9 percent. Strong growth was inevitable as the economy began to reopen.

While the economy has revived considerably since last spring, it is far short of its level before the pandemic. And progress is slowing.

“Employment has come back to some extent, but the unemployment rate is still high, wage and salary income is still low,” said Ben Herzon, executive director of IHS Markit, a forecasting firm. “Demand is still being depressed by the pandemic.”

In superlative-laden Facebook ads purchased days before the report, President Trump and his supporters have already begun to promote it as evidence of a strong rebound. The truth is more complicated. Here is how economists are thinking about the report, and why the numbers could be misleading.

If G.D.P. fell by 9 percent in the second quarter, and rose by about 7 percent in the third quarter, it might sound as if the economy is almost back to where it started.

It isn’t. The big drop in output in the second quarter means that third-quarter growth is being measured against a smaller base. A simple illustration of the same phenomenon: If you have $100 and lose half, you have $50. If you then manage to increase your money by half, that will bring your holdings to $75, not all the way back to $100.

To really evaluate the recovery, it makes sense to focus less on quarter-to-quarter changes and instead look at how the economy compares to the fourth quarter of last year, before the pandemic began. If economists’ forecasts are correct, G.D.P. will be 3 to 4 percent lower in the third quarter than at the end of last year. By comparison, G.D.P. shrank 4 percent over the entire year and a half of the Great Recession a decade ago.

In other words: Even after the record-setting rebound in the third quarter, the economy is still in a hole as large as the worst point of many past recessions.

Here is where things get really confusing: Third-quarter growth will look historically strong, even though all three months that made up the quarter were relatively weak.

That seeming paradox is the result of how the government reports G.D.P. statistics.

Quarterly G.D.P. figures represent the average amount of economic output over a three-month period. In normal times, output changes only gradually — growing or shrinking only 2 or 3 percent per year — so the change from the first month of a quarter to the last is small.

Last spring, however, changes that would ordinarily take years played out in a matter of weeks. Monthly estimates from IHS Markit show that G.D.P. fell more than 5 percent in March and more than 10 percent in April, before rising roughly 5 percent in May and 6 percent in June.

Quarterly averages obscure those big swings, however. G.D.P. fell 1.3 percent in the first quarter (when two relatively normal months were followed by the big drop in March) and 9 percent in the second (when output plunged in the first month of the quarter then rose in the next two).

The big rebound in May and June meant that the third quarter effectively had a head start. In fact, even if there had been zero growth in July, August or September, and the economy had stayed exactly the same size as at the end of the second quarter, that would still represent 5.4 percent quarterly growth — the strongest gain on record.

Recovering Lost Ground

Monthly and quarterly U.S. gross domestic product in 2020




Change in

AVERAGE from

previous

quarter

Very little forecasted

month-to-month

change within Q3

QUARTERLY

AVERAGE

–9.0%

+7.5%

THIRD

Quarter

(forecast)

First

Quarter

SECOND

Quarter

$15

trillion

$10

$5

Jan.

Feb.

Mar.

April

May

June

July

Aug.

Sept.

Very little forecasted

month-to-month

change within Q3

Change in AVERAGE from

previous quarter

–9.0%

+7.5%

QUARTERLY AVERAGE

First Quarter

SECOND Quarter

THIRD Quarter

(forecast)

$15 trillion

$10

$5

Jan.

Feb.

March

April

May

June

July

Aug.

Sept.


Note: Monthly G.D.P. estimates are shown as seasonally adjusted annual rates, adjusted for inflation.

Source: IHS Markit

By Ella Koeze

Of course, the economy did experience some growth during the third quarter. IHS Markit estimates that G.D.P. grew about 1.5 percent in July and less than 1 percent in August and September. But those are much weaker gains than the quarterly G.D.P. figures might seem to suggest.

“Statistics that we’re used to using for small and slow movements are basically broken when it comes to looking at large and rapid movements,” said Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist who occasionally contributes to The New York Times. “Typically a recession plays out over many quarters. This one played out over many weeks. So looking at the data through the lens of quarterly data misses all the action.”

Gross domestic product in the United States is usually reported at an annual rate, meaning how much output would grow or shrink if that rate of change were sustained for a full year. That convention makes it easier to compare data collected over different time periods. But during periods of rapid change, annual rates can be confusing.

In the second quarter, for example, G.D.P. fell at an annual rate of 31.4 percent. That makes it sound as if the economy shrank by nearly one-third, when in fact it shrank by a bit less than a tenth.

To avoid confusion, in the coverage of Thursday’s report, The Times plans to emphasize simple, nonannual percentage changes from both the second quarter and the fourth quarter of last year, before the pandemic began. (We gave a more detailed explanation of this decision before the second-quarter report in July.)

When the pandemic first hit last spring, many economists and policymakers hoped that by shutting down nonessential businesses and encouraging people to stay home, the United States could quickly bring the virus under control, then reopen with minimal lasting economic damage. That would allow for a “V-shaped” recession and recovery — a steep drop, followed by an equally steep rebound.

Relative to that expectation, the U.S. response has been a failure. The economy bounced back in May and June, but only partway. Most forecasters don’t expect G.D.P. to return to its pre-pandemic level until late next year at the earliest.

Compared with forecasts from April and May, however, the economic rebound has beaten expectations. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, for example, released a forecast in late April showing a steeper second-quarter decline and a weaker third-quarter rebound than ended up happening. The office also expected the unemployment rate to stay above 10 percent through the end of this year; instead, the rate fell below that benchmark in August, and fell further to 7.9 percent in September.

The bad news is that progress has slowed sharply since that spring rebound. Many economists have recently revised downward their forecasts for the end of the year, in part because Congress did not provide more stimulus money before the election.

“The recovery has been faster than expected, but it is bending off pretty sharply,” Mr. Herzon said. “We got a sharp recovery, but there appears to have been a limit to that recovery.”

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China Is on a Building Binge, and the Global Economy Could Benefit

The coronavirus pandemic forced China to bring industrial activity to a halt earlier this year, but the country is revving its engines again — and global prices of metals are reflecting that renewed appetite for growth.

China consumes roughly half of the world’s industrial metals, according to analysts. As the country emerged from the worst of the pandemic in March, the Chinese government unleashed a program of enormous fiscal stimulus aimed at building bridges, roads, utilities, broadband and railroads across the country. As a result, the prices of iron ore, nickel, copper, zinc and other metals used to build infrastructure have surged in recent months.

Since late March, prices of iron ore — the key ingredient in steel — have risen more than 40 percent. Nickel, needed for stainless steel, and zinc, used to galvanize metal, are up more than 25 percent. Copper, which is used in wiring for power transmission, construction and car manufacturing, and has long been seen as a barometer for the world’s industrial economy, is also up, around 35 percent.

“China, as usual, went the investment route and is massively investing in metals-intensive infrastructure,” said Caroline Bain, a commodities market analyst with Capital Economics in London. “So there’s been a very strong pickup in China’s demand for metals.”

Last month, China’s state railway operator announced plans to double the size of its high-speed rail network over the next 15 years. In July, investment from China’s state-owned enterprises, including giants such as China National Offshore Oil Corporation and China Mobile, surged 14 percent from a year earlier, according to Standard & Poor’s analysts. (Private companies, by comparison, bolstered investment by just 3 percent.)

Image
Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In Guangdong, the country’s most populous province, regional officials plan to spend some 700 billion yuan — about $100 billion — this year on public medical facilities, 5G networking and transportation infrastructure.

In February, the coronavirus outbreak prompted a lockdown of much of the country’s economy, the second largest in the world after that of the United States. From January to March, China’s economy contracted 6.8 percent, the first decline the country has acknowledged in roughly half a century.

Industrial activity stopped, causing metal prices to plunge. Copper and aluminum prices all dived roughly 20 percent in that period, while iron ore fell about 15 percent. The sudden pause in demand from such a big buyer immediately strained several countries that have built large parts of their economy around digging ore out of the ground and shipping it to China.

[embedded content]

Australia’s exports to China — mostly iron ore and coal — tumbled roughly 20 percent, as the country fell into its first recession in nearly 30 years. Metal exports from Brazil, Chile and Peru also slumped, driven by cratering demand from China and declines in mining production, but also because miners were forced to halt operations as the coronavirus spread locally. The share prices of global mining giants, which get large portions of their revenue from China, cratered. In local currency terms, Vale in Brazil and the Anglo-Australian giant Rio Tinto both tumbled roughly 40 percent from January to March.

But the response of the authoritarian government in China — its state-led model that gives Beijing significant influence over the direction of the economy — was enormous, helping China post one of the fastest recoveries of any of the world’s largest economies in recent months.

Goldman Sachs’s estimates of Chinese budget deficits — a measure that includes both official budget deficit numbers and a variety of off-balance-sheet government support that is common in China — ballooned to 20 percent of gross domestic product in the first half of 2020 from about 10 percent at the end of 2019, as the country pumped money into the economy.

Image

Credit…Jerome Favre/EPA, via Shutterstock

Recent economic reports from China show where that government money has flowed. August data on industrial production revealed 5.6 percent growth over the same month last year, firmly establishing a V-shaped recovery for the sector. Industrial production in sectors tied to infrastructure, such as cement, steel and iron, all posted strong gains. Other official data on investment showed growth in utilities, road and rail construction.

Economists at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development expect that China’s G.D.P. will grow 1.8 percent this year, making it the only member of the Group of 20 nations that will not suffer a recession this year. That’s the best expected performance of any of the countries the organization tracked in its latest economic update.

“The recovery in G.D.P. is much faster and stronger than elsewhere,” said Ms. Bain of Capital Economics.

That’s not only good news for metals markets, but could also herald better times for the global economy. Analysts have studied the prices of some metals as a leading indicator of global economic growth, even referring to copper as “Dr. Copper” because of its supposed ability to predict the direction of the economy as well as any economist with a Ph.D.

“People’s perception of the economy is how weakened it is, yet all the industrial metals are telling you a very different story,” said Chris Verrone, an analyst and partner at Strategas Research in New York. “We think copper is the market trying to tell us that the economy is stronger than we expect.”

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China Is on a Building Binge, and Metal Prices Are Surging

The coronavirus pandemic forced China to bring industrial activity to a halt earlier this year, but the country is revving its engines again — and global prices of metals are reflecting that renewed appetite for growth.

China consumes roughly half of the world’s industrial metals, according to analysts. As the country emerged from the worst of the pandemic in March, the Chinese government unleashed a program of enormous fiscal stimulus aimed at building bridges, roads, utilities, broadband and railroads across the country. As a result, the prices of iron ore, nickel, copper, zinc and other metals used to build infrastructure have surged in recent months.

Since late March, prices of iron ore — the key ingredient in steel — have risen more than 40 percent. Nickel, needed for stainless steel, and zinc, used to galvanize metal, are up more than 25 percent. Copper, which is used in wiring for power transmission, construction and car manufacturing, and has long been seen as a barometer for the world’s industrial economy, is also up around 35 percent.

“China, as usual, went the investment route and is massively investing in metals-intensive infrastructure,” said Caroline Bain, a commodities market analyst with Capital Economics in London. “So there’s been a very strong pick up in China’s demand for metals.”

Last month, China’s state railway operator announced plans to double the size of its high-speed rail network over the next 15 years. In July, investment from China’s state-owned enterprises, including giants such as China National Offshore Oil Corporation and China Mobile, surged by 14 percent compared with the prior year, according to Standard & Poor’s analysts. (Private companies, by comparison, bolstered investment by just 3 percent.)

Image
Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In Guangdong, the country’s most populous province, regional officials plan to spend some 700 billion yuan — about $100 billion — this year on public medical facilities, 5G networking and transportation infrastructure.

In February, the coronavirus outbreak prompted a lockdown of much of the country’s economy, the second largest in the world’s after that of the United States. From January to March, China’s economy contracted by 6.8 percent, the first decline the country has acknowledged in roughly half a century. Industrial activity stopped, causing metal prices to plunge. Copper and aluminum prices all dove roughly 20 percent in that period, while iron ore fell about 15 percent. The sudden pause in demand from such a big buyer immediately strained several countries that have built large parts of their economy around digging ore out of the ground and shipping it to China.

[embedded content]

Australia’s exports to China — mostly iron ore and coal — tumbled roughly 20 percent, as the country fell into its first recession in nearly 30 years. Metal exports from Brazil, Chile and Peru also slumped, driven by cratering demand from China and declines in mining production, but also because miners were forced to halt operations as the coronavirus spread locally. The share prices of global mining giants, which get large portions of their revenue from China, cratered. In local currency terms, Vale in Brazil and the Anglo-Australian giant Rio Tinto both tumbled roughly 40 percent from January to March.

But the response of the authoritarian government in China — its state-led model that gives Beijing significant influence over the direction of the economy — was enormous, helping China post one of the fastest recoveries of any of the world’s largest economies in recent months.

Goldman Sachs’s estimates of Chinese budget deficits — a measure that includes both official budget deficit numbers and a variety of off-balance sheet government support that is common in China — ballooned to 20 percent of gross domestic product in the first half of 2020 from about 10 percent at the end of 2019, as the country pumped money into the economy.

Image

Credit…Jerome Favre/EPA, via Shutterstock

Recent economic reports from China show where that government money has flowed. August data on industrial production revealed 5.6 percent growth over the same month last year, firmly establishing a V-shaped recovery for the sector. Industrial production in sectors tied to infrastructure, such as cement, steel and iron, all posted strong gains. Other official data on investment showed growth in utilities, road and rail construction.

Economists at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development expect that China’s G.D.P. will actually grow by 1.8 percent this year, making it the only member of the Group of 20 nations that will not suffer a recession this year. That’s the best expected performance of any of the countries the organization tracked in its latest economic update.

“The recovery in G.D.P. is much faster and stronger than elsewhere,” said Ms. Bain of Capital Economics.

That’s good news not only for metals markets, but could also herald better times for the global economy. Analysts have studied the prices of some metals as a leading indicator of global economic growth, even referring to copper as “Dr. Copper” because of its supposed ability to predict the direction of the economy as well as any economist with a Ph.D.

“People’s perception of the economy is how weakened it is, yet all the industrial metals are telling you a very different story,” said Chris Verrone, an analyst and partner at Strategas Research in New York. “We think copper is the market trying to tell us that the economy is stronger than we expect.”

Read More

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The National Debt is Surging

Economists and deficit hawks have warned for decades that the United States was borrowing too much money. The federal debt was ballooning so fast, they said, that economic ruin was inevitable: Interest rates would skyrocket, taxes would rise and inflation would probably run wild.

The death spiral could be triggered once the debt surpassed the size of the U.S. economy — a turning point that was probably still years in the future.

It actually happened much sooner: sometime before the end of June.

The coronavirus pandemic, and the economic collapse that followed, unleashed a historic run of government borrowing: trillions of dollars for stimulus payments, unemployment insurance expansions, and loans to prop up small businesses and to keep big companies afloat.

But the economy hasn’t drowned in the flood of red ink — and there’s a growing sense that the country could take on even more without any serious consequences.

“At this stage, I think, nobody is very worried about debt,” said Olivier Blanchard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund. “It’s clear that we can probably go where we are going, which is debt ratios above 100 percent in many countries. And that’s not the end of the world.”

That nonchalant attitude toward what were once thought to be major breaking points reflects an evolution in the way investors, economists and central bankers think about government debt.

[embedded content]

As levels of debt among rich nations like the United States and Japan have climbed relentlessly in recent decades, the cost of carrying that debt — reflected in interest rates — has tumbled, leaving little indication that markets were losing confidence in the willingness and ability of these countries to carry their financial burdens.

And since the 2008 financial crisis, traditional thinking about borrowing by governments — at least those that control their own currencies — has further weakened, as central banks in major developed markets became enormous buyers in government bond markets.

Critics repeatedly said this circular form of fiscal finance — in which one arm of the government, the central bank, basically creates the money needed to fund the arm of government that taxes and spends — would inevitably lead to a spiral of inflation, a spike in interest rates or a loss of confidence in the currencies. It didn’t.

“This is a 40-year pattern,” said Stephanie Kelton, a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University and a proponent of what’s often called Modern Monetary Theory. That view holds that countries that control their own currencies have far more leeway to run large deficits than traditionally thought. “The whole premise that deficits drive up interest rates, it’s just wrong,” she said.

At the end of last year, the United States was about $17 trillion in debt — roughly 80 percent of the gross domestic product. In January, government analysts predicted that debt would approach 100 percent of the G.D.P. around 2030. But by the end of June, the debt stood at $20.53 trillion, or roughly 106 percent of G.D.P., which shrank amid widespread stay-at-home orders. (These numbers don’t count trillions more the government owes itself in bonds held by the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.)

That more than 25 percentage-point surge would represent the largest annual leap in American indebtedness since Alexander Hamilton founded the nation’s credit in the 1790s, outpacing even the debt growth at the peak of World War II, according to data from the Congressional Budget Office.

And it’s not over yet. The Treasury is expected to borrow over $1 trillion more through the end of the year — and that’s without counting another stimulus package. Republicans in Congress have pushed for a $1 trillion package, while Democrats have already passed their own plan with a price tag of more than $3 trillion.

“What’s very clear is that the U.S. economy has some room,” said Rick Rieder, global chief investment officer of fixed income at BlackRock, which manages over $7 trillion in investments for clients, including more than $2 trillion in bonds. “I would argue that we still have room now for another fiscal package.”

Talks on such a package are currently stalled, with the surging levels of debt often cited by Republicans lawmakers as a reason to oppose further fiscal action. But even the current situation would have been unthinkable not long ago.

Economists have long told a story in which debt levels this large inevitably ignited an economic doom loop. Towering levels of debt would freak out Treasury bond investors, who would demand higher interest rates to hand their cash to such a heavily indebted borrower. With its debt payments more expensive, the government would have to borrow even more to stay current on its obligations.

Neither tax increases nor spending cuts would be attractive, because both could slow the economy — and any slowdown would hurt tax revenues, meaning the government would have to keep borrowing more. These scenarios frequently included dire predictions of soaring interest rates for business and consumer borrowing and crushing inflation as the government printed more and more money to pay what it owed.

But instead of panicking, the financial markets are viewing this seemingly bottomless need for borrowing benignly. The interest rate on the 10-year Treasury note — also known as its yield — is roughly 0.7 percent, far below where it was a little over a year ago, when it was about 2 percent.

[embedded content]

Expectations for economic growth and inflation are the crucial drivers of interest rates, and such low rates very likely mean investors expect a long period of piddling growth. But they also signal that investors see almost no chance that the United States, which has one of the best track records of any borrower on earth, will stiff them by defaulting.

One big reason: As during World War II, much of the money the government has borrowed is coming from an arm of the government itself, the Federal Reserve. The central bank has increased its holdings of Treasury securities by more than $1.8 trillion since March, effectively creating all the new money it needed to buy them. For many years, such arrangements were viewed as something that was done in wobbly emerging market economies.

But since the financial crisis of 2008 and the deep recession that followed, central banks in the richest nations in the world — the Fed, as well as the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank — have printed large amounts of money to buy government bonds and spur economic growth by lowering long-term interest rates.

The bond-buying programs in the United States were some of the world’s most aggressive. Critics said they would lead to disaster, with the increase in dollars setting off a surge of inflation similar to the one that dogged the economy in the 1970s. But inflation has stayed low, consistently coming in below the 2 percent target set by the Federal Reserve.

That’s not to say conditions will stay that way. Earlier this month, the price of gold, typically bought by investors as a hedge against inflation, rose above $2,000 an ounce — a record — suggesting that some could be buying a bit of insurance against a sharp rise in the future.

There’s a debate about whether a large amount of government debt hamstrings economic growth over the long term. Some influential studies have shown that high levels of debt — in particular debt-to-G.D.P. ratios approaching 100 percent — are associated with lower levels of economic growth. But other researchers have found that the relationship isn’t causal: Slowing economic growth might lead to higher levels of debt, rather than vice versa.

Others have found that they don’t see much of a relationship between high levels of debt and slow economic growth for rich developed countries. But they do see such a relationship for poorer developing economies, which are much more reliant on foreign investors, who could be spooked by rising levels of debt. Such situations have repeatedly played out in emerging markets over the years.

Even so, the experience over the last decade has drastically shifted the way economists and investors think about how the United States funds itself.

“Fiscal constraints aren’t nearly what economists thought they were,” said Daniel Ivascyn, chief investment officer for PIMCO, which manages nearly $2 trillion in assets, mostly in bonds. “When you have a central bank essentially funding these deficits, you can take debt levels to higher debt levels than people envisioned.”

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Record Low for U.S. G.D.P. as Coronavirus Takes Huge Toll

The coronavirus pandemic’s toll on the nation’s economy became emphatically clearer Thursday as the government detailed the most devastating three-month collapse on record, which wiped away nearly five years of growth.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced, fell 9.5 percent in the second quarter of the year as consumers cut back spending, businesses pared investments and global trade dried up, the Commerce Department said.

The drop — the equivalent of a 32.9 percent annual rate of decline — would have been even more severe without trillions of dollars in government aid to households and businesses.

But there is mounting evidence that the attempt to freeze the economy and defeat the virus has not produced the rapid rebound that many envisioned. A surge in coronavirus cases and deaths across the country has led to a renewed pullback in economic activity, reflecting consumer unease and renewed shutdowns. And much of the government support is on the verge of running out, with Washington at an impasse over next steps.

“In another world, a sharp drop in activity would have been just a good, necessary blip while we addressed the virus,” said Heather Boushey, president of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a progressive think tank. “From where we sit in July, we know that this wasn’t just a short-term blip. We did not get the virus under control.”

Data from Europe shows what might have been. Germany on Thursday reported a drop in second-quarter G.D.P. that was even steeper than the U.S. decline. But in Germany, coronavirus cases fell sharply and remain low, which has allowed a much stronger economic rebound in recent weeks.

In the United States, the rebound appears to have stalled. More than 1.4 million Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the 19th straight week that the tally exceeded one million, an unheard-of figure before the pandemic. A further 830,000 people filed for benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which supports freelancers, the self-employed and other workers not covered by traditional unemployment benefits.

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Credit…Joseph Rushmore for The New York Times

In total, some 30 million people are receiving unemployment benefits, a number that has come down only slowly as new layoffs — many of them permanent job losses, as opposed to the spring’s temporary furloughs — offset gradual rehiring. Some economists now fear that the monthly jobs report coming next week will show that total employment fell in July after two months of strong gains. The slow recovery, and signs of backsliding, are taking a toll on consumer confidence, which fell in July after rising in June.

“Not only have we plateaued, but we may be losing ground,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton in Chicago. “To have these kinds of numbers in July when many in Congress hoped this would be over by summer underscores how unique and persistent the Covid crisis is.”

The economic collapse in the second quarter was unrivaled in its speed and breathtaking in its severity. The decline was more than twice as large as in the Great Recession a decade ago, but occurred in a fraction of the time. The only possible comparisons in modern American history came during the Great Depression and the demobilization after World War II, both of which predated modern economic statistics.

Economists and epidemiologists alike describe the U.S. failure to control the virus during the initial shutdown as a missed opportunity. The government’s efforts at financial support were largely successful: After plummeting in March and April, retail sales rose in May and June as stimulus payments and a $600 weekly federal supplement to unemployment benefits began flowing into consumers’ bank accounts. Loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program allowed small businesses to begin bringing back furloughed workers.

The wave of evictions and foreclosures that many economists predicted early in the recession largely failed to materialize. But those programs have expired or are about to do so. And efforts to extend them have been delayed in Congress by disagreements — between the parties, and among Republicans — about how and how much to spend.

“The lesson from the early policy experiments is that it is possible to support the income of people and to offset those financial constraints,” said Tara Sinclair, a George Washington University economist and a senior fellow at the Indeed Hiring Lab. “But now as of today, we’re not going to have that anymore.”

The up-and-down nature of the recovery is shown by Russian River Brewing Company in Sonoma County, Calif.

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Credit…Felix Uribe for The New York Times
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Credit…Felix Uribe for The New York Times

Before the pandemic, half the company’s revenue came from retail sales: food and drink at its two brew pubs, tours and tastings at the brewery itself, in-person purchases of bottled beer. When California ordered restaurants to shut down in mid-March, all of that revenue disappeared.

“We were panicking for 48 hours,” said Natalie Cilurzo, who owns Russian River with her husband, Vinnie.

Once the panic passed, the Cilurzos began finding ways to plug the hole. With restaurants shut down, grocery-store sales surged, and online ordering proved to be a hit. A loan through the Paycheck Protection Program helped cover employee salaries and other expenses. And in early June, Russian River was allowed to reopen its brew pubs.

But it has been a partial and uneven rebound. Revenues are back more or less to normal levels, but profits are still down because margins are lower for grocery-store sales. The company has brought back most of its furloughed workers, but it has permanently laid off 20 percent of its staff. And one of its locations had to close again when California reimposed restrictions on indoor dining.

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Credit…Felix Uribe for The New York Times

“We’re open, we’re closed, we’re open, we’re closed — we’re kind of in this yo-yo here in California,” Ms. Cilurzo said.

The G.D.P. report shows the severity of the temporary slowdown and hints at evidence of more lasting damage. Consumer spending fell 10.1 percent, led by a near-total collapse in spending on restaurant meals, recreational activities and other services. Even health care spending fell, as patients canceled elective procedures and delayed routine care.

Businesses, too, pulled back sharply on their investments, which Ms. Sinclair said was a worrying sign because it suggested they do not expect a rapid recovery in demand. And trade — both imports and exports — plunged, reflecting the global nature of the pandemic.

There were glimmers of optimism. Spending on goods fell a modest 3 percent, and some quarantine-friendly categories had increases. And while residential construction slumped in the second quarter, more recent data suggests the housing market has experienced a strong rebound, buoyed by low interest rates.

Many economists, however, caution that spending could fall further if Congress reduces or eliminates aid to households and businesses. And it would add to the stress on the unemployed, who are facing the expiration of extra jobless benefits at a time when the virus remains prevalent and jobs remain scarce.

Louise Francis had worked as a banquet cook at the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans for nearly two decades when she was furloughed last spring. It took three months of effort to get her first unemployment check, and she relied on her adult daughters for help in the meantime. But when she began receiving the money, the $600 weekly federal supplement to regular state benefits allowed her to find some stability.

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Credit…L. Kasimu Harris for The New York Times

“With the $600, you could see your way a little bit,” Ms. Francis said. “You could feel a little more comfortable. You could pay three or four bills and not feel so far behind.”

With the supplement at an end and no congressional consensus on replacing it, Ms. Francis, 59, isn’t sure what she will do. Her age, combined with her diabetes and high blood pressure, puts her at high risk of severe illness if she contracts the coronavirus, which makes her reluctant to take any job that puts her into face-to-face contact with the public, especially with cases surging in Louisiana.

Ms. Francis’s husband is retired, leaving her as the family’s breadwinner, and she will have to get by on $247 a week in state benefits.

“If they take that $600 from us, how am I supposed to be able to continue paying my bills?” she said. “You still have to eat, to pay insurance. If they take it away, they’re going to push us back into poverty.”

Nelson D. Schwartz contributed reporting.

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China’s Economy Rebounds From Virus, but Uncertainty Persists

BEIJING — Economies in Europe and the United States are still languishing as the pandemic forces cities to shut down and shoppers to stay home. But one major country is growing once again: China.

The world’s second-largest economy expanded 3.2 percent from April through June compared to the same period last year, Chinese officials said on Thursday. It was an abrupt turnaround from the January through March quarter, when the economy shrank 6.8 percent, the first contraction that China has acknowledged in nearly half a century.

The recovery points to the authoritarian government’s success in bringing the coronavirus outbreak under control with widespread testing and travel restrictions, after its early missteps delayed the response and fed public anger. But the economic rebound also reflects the government’s continued reliance on spending on the building of highways and rail lines and other infrastructure projects to juice the economy, rather than on domestic consumption.

The approach raises questions about whether China’s economic turnaround is sustainable, and whether it can become the engine needed to drive the global economy out of a slump.

China needs to rev up consumption at home because demand for its exports is slowing as other countries go into recession and unemployment grows globally. Factories in China are already cranking out furniture, consumer electronics and mass-market cars more quickly than consumers at home or abroad want to buy them.

“It looks like there is still a mismatch there — people are not consuming as much as previously,” said Sara Hsu, a visiting scholar in economics at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Sales of groceries and other essentials have stayed strong in China throughout the pandemic. But the people’s willingness to spend on restaurant meals, nights at hotels and other nonessential goods and services has still not fully bounced back.

“The production recovery was much better than that of demand, with insufficient demand for optional goods,” said Stephan Wöllenstein, the chief executive of Volkswagen Group China.

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Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets have surged 14 percent in the first half of this month, through Wednesday’s close. The rally has been so strong that some analysts have worried it may be the start of another speculative mania like the one in early 2015 that led to a crash late that year and in early 2016.

On the Chinese economy itself, however, a cautious optimism is emerging. “The economy is definitely on the mend,” said Shen Jianguang, the China economist for JD.com, a large Chinese online retailer.

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The National Bureau of Statistics also announced on Thursday that industrial production climbed 4.8 percent in June from a year ago, while investment in fixed assets strengthened, especially for infrastructure. Retail sales remained fairly weak, falling 1.8 percent last month compared to a year earlier.

China’s economy has shown “development and resilience,” said Liu Aihua, the bureau’s director general of the department of comprehensive statistics, at a news briefing. But, she warned, “the national economic recovery was still under pressure.”

Growth was driven by a ramping up of infrastructure investments. Beijing gave quick approval for local governments to issue bonds to pay for shovel-ready projects like building a subway line in Dalian and renovating a train station in Xi’an. The government also provided quick loans and other subsidies to businesses on the condition that they not lay off workers.

Despite those measures, however, tens of millions of Chinese remain out of work, particularly young Chinese. The government has tried to respond by sharply expanding the number of places in graduate schools this autumn and even redefining employment to include bloggers and professional video gamers.

Millions of factory and service workers routinely quit their jobs each December or January to return to their home villages for extended Lunar New Year celebrations, and then hunt for new jobs when they return to cities in late February or in March. But this year, many of these workers are still unemployed, as eateries, hotels and many export factories have hired back practically no one since the holiday ended.

As in the United States and elsewhere, the slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has widened the gap between the rich and the poor in China. Sales data shows that spending in villages, towns and smaller cities and among lower-income households had faltered, Mr. Shen said. But wealthier households, who are more likely to work from home or to have considerable savings, are still spending money.

Consumption has also stayed fairly strong in big cities, where most of the country’s affluent families live, Mr. Shen said.

China’s appearance of economic strength in the second quarter was also partly a statistical fluke. In April and May, China spent less on imports because the cost of oil, copper and other commodities went down. That meant China had a bigger trade surplus. And a larger trade surplus shows up in countries’ accounting as faster economic growth.

But those prices have jumped back up in the last several weeks, so the country’s economic performance now through September will not reflect the same import savings.

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Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Now the question is whether China’s exports can hold up at a time when many stores are struggling in the West, and particularly in the United States, which has seen a steep increase in new confirmed cases of Covid-19. China’s exports were up only 0.5 percent in June compared to last year.

Steve Denton, the chief executive of Ware2Go, a large warehouse logistics company controlled by UPS, said that from March through mid-July, the company had seen a 17 percent jump in the volume of goods being stored. Many of these goods are from China.

In China, consumption has also been affected by the coronavirus — though sometimes in unexpected ways.

In the spring, families at first rushed to car dealerships because of concerns about the risks of catching the virus from using buses, subways or other forms of mass transit. But with the outbreak nearly completely subsided, people are reconsidering those big-ticket purchases as they look for ways to save in the face of broader weakness throughout the economy.

Jian Xu, a former Daimler and Volkswagen executive who now leads the China automotive practice at the A.T. Kearney consulting firm, said that many families were canceling orders they had placed for new cars.

According to the China Passenger Car Association, dealerships across China sold 6.2 percent fewer cars last month than in June of last year. But part of the drop was because many automakers discounted prices in June of last year to sell a lot of extra cars before tighter emissions standards took effect the following month.

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Credit…Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

China had a handful of coronavirus outbreaks during late spring, notably one in Beijing in mid-June that triggered lockdowns of more than 50 apartment complexes.

But Beijing only represents about 1.5 percent of China’s population and a slightly larger share of the national economy. The other outbreaks were in much smaller and less affluent communities in the far northeastern corner of the country, with even less economic importance.

Many businesspeople in China are worried that weak demand is putting inexorable pressure on them to cut prices. Their revenues erode as a result, making it hard for them to repay their loans.

Sun Fengling, a seafood trader in Xuzhou, said that she had been forced to cut the price of crayfish by two-thirds in recent weeks. Farmers continued raising crayfish through the spring and now have ponds full of them, but demand has been slow to rebound.

In a glimmer of hope, other harvests are starting to do better. “We’re all sold out of crab,” she said.

Coral Yang in Shanghai contributed research.

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Stocks Tumble as Coronavirus Cases Surge

On Wednesday, governors, mayors, investors and others across the United States woke up to news that was impossible to ignore. More than 35,000 new coronavirus cases had been identified the day before. It was the highest number reported in a single day since late April.

The news kept getting worse. Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina reported their highest single-day totals. New York instituted a quarantine for some travelers from out of state. And the stock market slid 2.6 percent as investors fretted about what the latest troubling news meant for economic recovery.

It was as if the country had found itself back in March — at the start of the pandemic, in the early days of the lockdown, when masks were in short supply and the death toll was skyrocketing.

By the end of Wednesday, more than 36,000 new cases had been reported nationwide, the second-highest daily total since the pandemic began.

The new cases showed that the outbreak had been far from contained. That could lead some states to slow the process of reopening businesses, further hobbling the economy and delaying its recovery.

Some states, including New York, which at one point had the most virus cases, have brought the number under control. But cases are still rising in more than 20 states, especially in the South and West.

Florida reported a new daily high of 5,508 cases on Wednesday, and the percentage of residents testing positive has risen sharply. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said Wednesday that the state recorded more than 7,000 new cases over the past day.

“I want to remind everybody that we are still in the first wave of this pandemic,” Mr. Newsom said during a virtual news briefing. The governor pleaded with residents, many of whom he acknowledged were gathering with friends and relatives, to continue practicing social distancing, to stay outdoors whenever possible and to wear a mask.

Texas reported more than 6,000 new cases on Wednesday. In Houston, the intensive-care units were at 97 percent of capacity, and hospitals risked running out of I.C.U. beds within two weeks if nothing is done to slow the upward trajectory of the virus.

“I strongly feel we are moving in the wrong direction, and we are moving fast,” Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston said.

In Washington State, where cases are rising again, Gov. Jay Inslee said residents would have to start wearing masks in public.

“This is about saving lives,” Mr. Inslee said. “It’s about reopening our businesses.”

In Florida on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis gave no indication that the state would roll back its economic opening, but he urged residents to avoid closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowds and close contact with others.

Mr. DeSantis continued to attribute the rising infections to younger people who have started to socialize in bars and homes, despite rules in many municipalities prohibiting group gatherings.

“You need to do your part and make sure that you’re not spreading it to people who are going to be more at risk for this,” he said.

The percentage of people in Florida testing positive has risen sharply, but testing alone does not explain the surge. Increases in hospitalizations also signal the virus’s spread.

New case reports also reached their highest levels in recent days in Missouri, but coronavirus hospitalizations have declined slightly over the last month.

“We are NOT overwhelmed,” Gov. Mike Parson wrote on Twitter, linking the uptick to more testing. “We are NOT currently experiencing a second wave. We have NO intentions of closing Missouri back down at this point in time.”

The World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that if governments and communities in the Americas were not able to stop the spread of the virus through surveillance, isolation of cases and quarantine of contacts, there might be a need to impose — or reimpose — general lockdowns.

The New York quarantine announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo applies to visitors from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas, as well as New Yorkers returning from those states. Violators could be subject to a mandatory quarantine and fines of up to $10,000. Travelers to New Jersey and Connecticut will also be told to quarantine.

The reopening of many businesses is not going smoothly. Apple said Wednesday that it had shut seven stores in the Houston area because of the rising number of cases in the region. Last week, it closed 11 stores in Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. Apple had opened most of its stores in the United States in recent weeks after closing nearly all of its roughly 500 stores worldwide months ago.

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


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