Understanding the Coronavirus Crisis: Key Fiscal and Economic Indicators | Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Understanding the Coronavirus Crisis

Key Fiscal and Economic Indicators as the Nation Responds and Recovers

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is an unprecedented national emergency requiring a significant federal response. This page provides resources and analysis, tracking the actions our leaders are taking to respond, and providing insights on the state of America’s fiscal and economic outlook during the recovery.

GDP Growth


Q2 2020

The decrease in real GDP was the worst quarterly contraction since the government started publishing such data over 70 years ago.

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Cumulative Budget Deficit

$2.8 Trillion

Cumulative Deficit for Fiscal Year 2020, through August

The federal deficit is expected to reach about $3.3 trillion this fiscal year, more than triple the shortfall recorded last fiscal year.

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Unemployment Rate


August 2020

The unemployment rate has improved from its peak of 14.7 percent in April of this year, which was the highest of any month since January 1948 — when data were first collected.

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Cost of Coronavirus Legislation

$2.4 Trillion

Total Cost of Enacted Legislation to Date

Lawmakers have passed legislation funding a range of new and existing programs aimed at providing economic relief.

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Interest Rates


Interest Rate on 10-Year Treasury Notes, as of August 12, 2020

The Treasury has been able to borrow cheaply because the Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Gross Federal Debt

$26.7 Trillion

As of September 1, 2020

The amount of federal debt held by the public is anticipated to exceed the size of the economy by the end of this fiscal year.

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Real GDP Growth

Indicator Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Gross Domestic Product, July 2020.

Note: That number reflects the percent change in real GDP from the preceding quarter. It is reported at an annualized rate.

Cumulative Budget Deficits

Indicator Source: Department of the Treasury, Monthly Treasury Statement, Issue for July 2020.

Note: The federal fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends on September 30.

Projection Source: Congressional Budget Office, , An Update to the Budget Outlook: 2020 to 2030, September 2020.

Unemployment Rate

Indicator Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Employment Situation — August 2020, September 2020.

Total Cost of Coronavirus Legislation Enacted

Indicator Source: Congressional Budget Office, Cost Estimates of: H.R. 6074, Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, March 2020; H.R. 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act, April 2020; H.R. 748, CARES Act, Public Law 116-136, April 2020; H.R. 266, Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, April 2020.

Projection Source: Congressional Budget Office, CBO’s Current Projections of Output, Employment, and Interest Rates and a Preliminary Look at Federal Deficits for 2020 and 2021, April 2020.

Note: The indicator reflects the sum of the estimated deficit costs of the legislation.

Interest Rates

Indicator Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury, Today's Auction Results, August, 2020.

National Debt

Indicator Source: Peter G. Peterson Foundation, What Is the National Debt Today?, August 2020.

Note: Each business day, the U.S. Department of the Treasury reports the amount of debt outstanding at the end of the previous business day. Our formula uses that number, as well as debt projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), to estimate the rate at which the debt is currently growing. Our estimates reflect the latest information from Treasury and CBO projections that are updated 2–3 times per year.

Gross federal debt equals debt held by the public plus debt held by federal trust funds and other government accounts. In very basic terms, this can be thought of as debt that the government owes to others plus debt that it owes to itself.

Projection Source: Congressional Budget Office, CBO’s Current Projections of Output, Employment, and Interest Rates and a Preliminary Look at Federal Deficits for 2020 and 2021, April 2020.


The Latest and Trending

Latest insights from the Peterson Foundation on the fiscal and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.

What is the Economic Damage from the Coronavirus?

It will take time to fully understand and measure the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy. However, recent insights and projections paint a clear picture of significant damage affecting every American family and business.


The coronavirus pandemic is upending the labor market, causing unemployment conditions not seen since the Great Depression.

The Coronavirus Pandemic has Caused a Massive Increase in Claims for Unemployment Insurance

Claims for unemployment insurance have skyrocketed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Five Key Takeaways from the Latest Unemployment Data

Here’s a closer look at who has been affected by the pandemic’s impacts on the labor market.

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July Unemployment Data Show Another Slight Improvement – But Rate Remains Historically High

Millions remain out of work as the nation continues to grapple with the pandemic.

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The pandemic continues to have significant financial and economic impacts across wide swaths of American society. Most respondents say they would use an additional federal stimulus payment to cover basic living expenses like housing, food or utilities.

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  • Washington Center for Equitable Growth

How the Coronavirus Recession is Impacting Part-Time U.S. Workers

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth details how part-time workers have been affected by the pandemic.

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Economic Growth

The response to the coronavirus has drastically affected the economy as consumption decreases, businesses are shuttered, and jobs are lost. Below are some resources outlining the depth of the economic impact of the pandemic.

Real GDP Drops by a Historic Rate in the Second Quarter

The pandemic has caused a historic upheaval in economic activity – but most economists expect the economy to begin recovery soon.

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IMF Releases Most Pessimistic Economic Projections for the U.S. to Date

These drastic projections underscore the strain of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.

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See How COVID-19 has Impacted 10-Year Projections for GDP and More

New CBO projections underscore the severe economic damage the pandemic has caused.

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  • Urban Institute

The COVID-19 Crisis Continues to Have Uneven Economic Impact by Race and Ethnicity

The coronavirus pandemic has more severely affected people of color. The Urban Institute highlights some notable trends to illustrate such disparities.

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  • Tax Policy Center

Congress Has No Clear Roadmap for its Next COVID-19 Response

The Tax Policy Center examines the unique challenge policymakers face as they consider next steps to addressing the current recession.

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What Have Policymakers Done About the Coronavirus?

Legislators have responded to the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic and additional phases of relief are likely to come.

Legislative Actions to Date

Policymakers have enacted a number of initial relief packages designed to address the unique health and economic aspects of the pandemic.

Here’s Everything Congress Has Done to Respond to the Coronavirus So Far

A recap of legislation enacted to date and an overview of what some analysts believe future support should look like.

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Breaking Down Coronavirus Relief Spending

How much direct aid has been disbursed so far, and how has it been used?

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What’s in the CARES Act? Here’s a Summary

The $2 trillion relief package is the largest in history. Here’s what’s in it.

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Poll: 82% of Americans Want Federal Relief Extended

Respondents were more likely to believe the pandemic will get worse in their communities, and many support extending federal economic relief legislation.

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How Does the U.S. Economic Response to the Coronavirus Compare to the Rest of the World?

The coronavirus has affected the economies of countries across the world. See how the U.S. response compares to other countries.

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  • Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

COVID Money Tracker: Policies Enacted To Date

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is tracking the financial actions taken to address the current crisis.

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Program Spending

To help mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus, lawmakers are providing funding for a number of new and existing programs in several key areas.

Safety Net Programs

Certain government programs are central to supporting the most vulnerable Americans during this time of economic distress.

The Coronavirus Has Led to a Surge in Spending on Unemployment Compensation

Federal spending on unemployment has been rising drastically. Here are the numbers.

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Spending on Medicaid Spiked Due to the Pandemic

As Americans lose jobs due to the coronavirus and enroll in Medicaid, spending on this crucial program is rising.

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How Has the Pandemic Affected Federal Spending on SNAP?

As unemployment numbers spike, many more Americans are relying on SNAP, resulting in increased federal spending on the food security program.

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How Will the Pandemic Impact Social Security’s Finances?

Social Security’s finances were already in trouble — and that was before the effects of the pandemic.

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  • Kaiser Family Foundation

How Many Uninsured Adults Could Be Reached If All States Expanded Medicaid?

In this analysis, the Kaiser Family Foundation explores how many uninsured adults could gain coverage under Medicaid if their states expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act.

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  • Center for American Progress

Congress Must Strengthen SNAP to Support Essential Workers during the Coronavirus Crisis

An analysis by the Center for American Progress found that essential workers are more likely to have needed safety net programs such as SNAP to make ends meet.

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Relief for Individuals

In response to the pandemic, the government has provided both direct and indirect aid to individuals in the form of stimulus checks, student debt relief, and more.

How Many Coronavirus Stimulus Checks Have Been Sent Out So Far?

Congress has authorized direct payments to millions of Americans to help mitigate the financial burden of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Breaking Down the $32 Billion of Airline Industry Payroll Support in Coronavirus Relief Legislation

The CARES Act provides up to $32 billion in federal aid to maintain employment in the airline industry. Here’s where that money is going.

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  • The Institute for College Access and Success

Resources for Student Loan Borrowers

The CARES Act provided some relief to student loan borrowers. The Institute for College Access & Success summarizes that aid and how it affects students.

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Small Business Support

Support for small businesses could be crucial to ensuring the health of the U.S. economy.

What Support Are Small Businesses Receiving During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

An overview of the various programs the federal government has funded to support small businesses.

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  • American Action Forum

Tracker: Paycheck Protection Program Loans

In this up-to-date tracker, the American Action Forum is charting the allocation of Paycheck Protection Program funds.

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  • Bipartisan Policy Center

Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act: Updates to the PPP

Recent legislation changed some aspects of the small business program. The Bipartisan Policy Center summarizes those changes.

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Aid to State and Local Governments

Providing assistance to state and local governments is essential to helping them respond to the pandemic.

Pandemic May Cause States to Slash Social Services, Education, Police Budgets, and More

Governments warn that a budget crunch due to the coronavirus may lead to cuts to vital services.

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What Is the Coronavirus Relief Fund? How Much Is Left in It?

The Coronavirus Relief Fund allocates $150 billion in direct federal fiscal support to governments in states, territories, and tribal areas.

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  • National Governors Association

Coalition Letter Advocating For Federal Aid to State and Local Governments

A coalition of organizations wrote a letter to Congressional leaders to advocate for additional federal aid on behalf of states, territories, counties, cities, and towns.

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  • The Volcker Alliance

Special Briefing on COVID-19: Unemployment, and State and Local Fiscal Consequences

The Volcker Alliance hosted a panel on the pandemic’s impact on unemployment, the deterioration of the finances and credit outlooks of states and localities, and the role of further federal assistance and loans to governments, companies, and individuals.

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How Does the Coronavirus Affect the Long-term Outlook?

This crisis has revealed a lack of preparedness on many fronts, including our fiscal condition. America entered the pandemic with already high and rising debt and deficits due to structural factors in our budget. As we take necessary steps to fight the coronavirus, it’s clear that our fiscal outlook will worsen significantly. Once the current crisis is over, we must come to terms with our lack of national preparedness and our inability to plan for the future in many areas.

The National Debt and Deficit

The national debt is a key issue for America’s future.

Legislation to Fight Pandemic Has Reduced Federal Revenues by $500 Billion

The coronavirus relief bills included multiple tax credits and tax incentives that will reduce federal revenues over the next decade.

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The Current Federal Deficit and Debt

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting the U.S. fiscal picture. Explore the monthly statistics on the federal budget and the national debt here.

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How Are We Paying for the Federal Response to the Coronavirus?

The Department of the Treasury has been able to finance the coronavirus relief spending at very low interest rates.

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What Is the National Debt Today?

An up-to-the-second counter of the national debt and more information about why it matters.

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How Does the Treasury Issue Debt?

As the United States borrows a significant amount of money to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, learn more about Treasury borrowing.

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The Fiscal Confidence Index

The Fiscal Confidence Index is designed to help policymakers, members of the media, and the American public gauge public opinion on the nation’s fiscal and economic challenges.

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  • EconoFact

(How) Will We Pay Back the Federal Debt?

EconoFact scholars discuss the nation’s rising debt trajectory.

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  • Manhattan Institute

A Bipartisan Way to Soften Recessions and Address Soaring Debt

The Manhattan Institute details a bipartisan solution that would provide automatic aid during recessions and reduces the debt when the economy is thriving.

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The Peter G. Peterson Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the nature and urgency of key fiscal challenges threatening America's future, and to accelerating action on them. To address these challenges successfully, we work to bring Americans together to find and implement sensible, long-term solutions that transcend age, party lines and ideological divides in order to achieve real results.