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 has been an unprecedented national emergency requiring a significant federal response. This page provides resources and analysis, tracking the actions our leaders have taken to respond, and providing insights on the state of America’s fiscal and economic outlook during the recovery.

GDP Growth

6.6%

Q2 2021

The U.S. economy has returned to its pre-pandemic level, driven by the reopening of businesses, COVID relief programs, and ongoing vaccination efforts.


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Cumulative Budget Deficit

$2.7 Trillion

Cumulative Deficit for Fiscal Year 2021.

The federal deficit could reach $3.0 trillion this year, the second highest amount ever recorded.


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Unemployment Rate

5.2%

August 2021

The unemployment rate has declined from its peak of 14.7 percent in April 2020, which was the highest of any month since January 1948 (when data were first collected).


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Cost of Coronavirus Legislation

$5.1 Trillion

Total Cost of Enacted Legislation to Date

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


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Interest Rates

1.29%

Interest Rate on 10-Year Treasury Notes, as of September 2, 2021

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


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Gross Federal Debt

$28.4 Trillion

As of September 2, 2021

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


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Real GDP Growth

Indicator Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Gross Domestic Product, April 2021.

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 August 2021.

Note: The federal fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends on September 30. The projection for this year’s federal deficit comes from the Congressional Budget Office.

Unemployment Rate

Indicator Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Employment Situation — August 2021, September 2021.

Total Cost of Coronavirus Legislation Enacted

Indicator Source: Congressional Budget Office, The Budgetary Effects of Laws Enacted in Response to the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, March and April 2020 and The Budgetary Effects of Major Laws Enacted in Response to the 2020–2021 Coronavirus Pandemic, December 2020 and March 2021.

Interest Rates

Indicator Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury, Daily Treasury Yield Curve Rates, September, 2021.

National Debt

Indicator Source: Peter G. Peterson Foundation, What Is the National Debt Today?, September 2021.

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.

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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.

Unemployment

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

The Labor Market Recovery Slowed in August

There were 235,000 jobs added in August, lower than expected by economists. However, the unemployment rate remains high, especially for non-white workers.

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Long-Term Unemployment has Quadrupled, and That's a Problem for the Economy

The number of individuals experiencing long-term unemployment (lasting 27 weeks or longer) has quadrupled during the pandemic.

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  • EconoFact

The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Women’s Employment

Econofact scholars explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has been detrimental for women in the workforce.

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Economic Growth

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

A Year After the Worst Economic Contraction Ever Recorded, Output Returns to Pre-pandemic Levels

The continued economic recovery, fueled by consumer spending, brought economic output back to its pre-pandemic level a year after the worst economic contraction ever recorded.

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United States Projected to See Rapid Economic Growth — the Highest Among Developed Countries

Economists don’t always agree — but there is a wide consensus developing that the United States is in store for rapid economic growth.

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Could Covid Relief Lead to Inflation? Here’s What Economists Are Saying

Despite the consensus among economists that some amount of inflation is likely to occur in the near term, their level of concern varies.

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The Economy is Getting Close to its Pre-pandemic Level

The continued economic recovery and reopening of businesses has been fueled by COVID relief programs and an accelerating vaccination effort.

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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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  • American Enterprise Institute:

Is Higher Inflation Inevitable?

Scholars at the American Enterprise Institute discuss the likeliness of higher inflation as the economy recovers.

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What Have Policymakers Done About the Coronavirus?

Legislators have responded to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in six major relief bills.

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.

What’s in the American Families Plan?

President Biden has outlined the details of the American Families Plan (AFP), a $1.8 trillion package including major new investments in education, childcare, healthcare, and family leave.

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Here’s Everything The Federal Government 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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What's in the American Rescue Plan?

Here's a breakdown of the major programs in the American Rescue Plan and how much they cost.

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How Much Coronavirus Funding Has Gone to Your State?

Review our state-by-state breakdown of how much federal funding has been distributed thus far.

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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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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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Program Spending

To help mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus, lawmakers provided 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.

Here Are Some Holes in the Social Safety Net That the Pandemic Highlighted

The unprecedented size of the economic disruption put the safety net to the test, revealing weaknesses that often prevented support from reaching some of the neediest families in a timely manner.

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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

With a massive reduction in economic activity and increased unemployment, many more Americans are relying on SNAP, resulting in increased federal spending on the food security program.

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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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  • Urban Institute

How Might State Medicaid and Other Health Programs Be Affected in the Pandemic’s Aftermath?

The Urban Institute examines how state Medicaid and other health programs responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the outlook for those programs moving forward.

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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.

What to Know About the New Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments

A key provision of the American Rescue Plan advances half of the expected credit for 2021 in periodic payments, which have now begun..

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What to Know About All Three Rounds of Coronavirus Stimulus Checks

Three sets of stimulus checks have been issued to eligible recipients as part of the pandemic relief. Each set of payments have been slightly different.

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

The CARES Act provided up to $32 billion in federal aid to cover employee salaries and benefits for airline workers. Here’s a breakdown of where that money went.

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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 is an important piece of ensuring the health of the overall U.S. economy.

How is the Government Supporting Small Business During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

America’s small businesses have been severely impacted by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

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How Effective Has the Federal Response to the Coronavirus Been for Small Businesses?

Programs were implemented to provide much needed support for small businesses, but how effective have they been?

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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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  • Washington Center for Equitable Growth

Revamping U.S. Small Business Rescue Programs Amid the Coronavirus Recession

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth provides resources and suggestions on how policymakers can help to strengthen small businesses.

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Aid to State and Local Governments

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

How Much of the Latest Federal Stimulus Will Go to State and Local Governments?

One key component of the $1.9 trillion package is an estimated $362 billion in federal aid to state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to cover expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency.

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Why Do States Receive Different Amounts of COVID Aid

Generally, states with larger populations have been receiving more federal dollars from COVID-19 relief programs as such states typically have more unemployed persons, small businesses, and healthcare providers to which that relief has been targeted.

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State Tax Revenues Took a Hit in the Wake of the Pandemic

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic took hold, economic activity slowed and tax revenues in most states began to decline.

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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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How Were State Budgets Doing Before the Economic Slowdown? And How Might the Pandemic Change Things

Some states were better prepared than others to handle this crisis according to a new report from the Volker Alliance.

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  • National Governors Association

A Strong National Economy Depends on Strong States and Territories

The National Governors Association highlights the role of state governments in the U.S. economic recovery.

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How Well Has the Coronavirus Fiscal Response Been Working?

Explore how effective the first four stimulus bills were and the effectiveness of the major programs included in it.

How Did the Fiscal Response to the Coronavirus Help the Economy?

Take a look at how the government’s initial response to the pandemic affected the nation’s economy.

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What Role Did the U.S. Safety Net Play in the Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Despite the increased federal deficit, the expansion of safety net programs led to generally effective stimulus of the economy. Learn more in our analysis of several programs including Unemployment Insurance, SNAP, and Medicaid.

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How Did Americans Spend Their Stimulus Checks and How Did It Affect the Economy?

The CARES Act granted stimulus checks to Americans to mitigate economic damage, but was it effective? Find out how stimulus checks affected the economy.

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How Effective Has the Coronavirus Relief Fund Been in Helping State and Local Governments?

In this piece we evaluate the degree to which federal funding assistance from the Coronavirus Relief Fund has helped other levels of government.

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How Did the Fiscal Response to Coronavirus Help Small Businesses?

The coronavirus pandemic has hit businesses especially hard, leading to significant reductions in their revenues and workforce.

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How Much Has Coronavirus Relief Helped Healthcare Providers?

To mitigate the difficulties facing the healthcare sector, the federal government has enacted a number of grants, loans, and other programs.

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Which Coronavirus Relief Programs Have Provided the Most Bang for the Buck?

While there is no single ideal way to deal with such a complex policy challenge as the pandemic, we can glean insights about how our responses have been working.

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How Does the Coronavirus Affect the Long-term Outlook?

This crisis 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 the government took necessary steps to fight the coronavirus, it’s clear that our fiscal outlook deterioriated 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.

Deficits Will Remain Over $1 Trillion for the Next Decade

Over the next 10 years, the cumulative deficit would total $13.9 trillion if the President’s policies were carried out.

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Interests Costs on National Debt Projected to Nearly Triple Over the Next Decade

The rising national debt carries substantial costs today and poses an even greater toll on America’s future.

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The National Debt Will Hit Its All-Time High by the End of the Decade, and Other Takeaways from the Latest CBO Report

While deficits will decline over the next few years, the nation will remain on an unsustainable fiscal trajectory.

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13 Charts that Show the Stunning Impact of 2020 on Our Fiscal and Economic Outlook

Our fiscal situation was already unsustainable, but COVID-19 certainly did not help.

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Last Year We Saw the Largest Budget Deficit Since 1945, Driven Largely by the Pandemic

The federal budget deficit was $3.1 trillion in fiscal year 2020, which ran from October 2019 to September 2020.

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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 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.