The U.S. economy started 2021 with a bang as retail sales and factory output accelerated and expectations continue to build for another jolt of government stimulus, setting the stage for what could be the best year of economic growth in nearly four decades.
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

U.S. Recovery Sustains Positive Momentum as Economy Reopens

A year after the coronavirus pandemic first drove the U.S. economy into the deepest downturn in generations, high-frequency economic indicators illustrate a strong rebound -- yet there’s still a ways to go.

Bloomberg Economics’ weekly dashboard of high-frequency, alternative and market-based data showed a weekly measure of retail sales accelerated for a third week, as gauges of mobility, consumer confidence and restaurant bookings all improved.

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More than two million Americans are now receiving the vaccine each day. Covid-19 cases are decelerating and hospitalizations have declined. States are increasingly reopening their economies, and the impact of loosening restrictions and medical advances was clear in the better-than-expected February jobs report.

“High-frequency indicators continued to improve across most measures and the February jobs report reaffirmed that vigorous growth is returning as the economy reopens from winter lockdowns,” said Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger.

Another potential jolt to the economy: the Senate passed a $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus package on Saturday containing direct checks for millions of Americans and extending supplemental jobless aid.

But even with sustained improvement, many measures remain depressed compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Americans Out and About as Covid Cases Continue Decline

Selected key indicators from high-frequency data dashboard

Sources: Bloomberg/Johns Hopkins, OpenTable, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Applications for state unemployment benefits are still more than three times levels seen before the health crisis, according to the latest data. The number of airline passengers -- while improving -- also remains depressed.

There are encouraging signs about the labor market. Total job postings accelerated for a fifth-straight week. Restaurant bookings are also up, an indication the crucial services industry is starting to improve.

Other parts of the economy have already returned or surpassed pre-Covid levels. Total retail sales are the strongest on record and the housing market is booming, though mortgage applications have pulled back in recent weeks. The S&P 500 Index hit an all-time high in mid-February.

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