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Opinion
Allison Schrager

Your Guide to the Permanent Pandemic Economy

Getting back to normal is no longer an option; some things that Covid broke can be fixed, but others are probably changed forever.

Still struggling for normalcy.

Still struggling for normalcy.

Photographer: Jair F. Coll/Bloomberg

We may be learning to live with Covid but as the latest inflation report shows, it's still a pandemic economy. Two and a half years after the first lockdowns, the economy remains weird: It can take more than a year to a get a dishwasher, many months to get a passport, businesses are short-staffed, stores routinely run out of basic staples like pain reliever and, of course, there is high inflation. Americans enjoyed years of plenty, where the newest, best thing was always available and many services got cheaper by the day. Now somedays it feels like we woke up in the dystopian second half of "Atlas Shrugged."

When will things finally get back to normal? In some ways maybe never. The pandemic accelerated changes to the economy that were already in the works. And it upended many of our assumptions, changing the economic relationships that formed the basis for many forecasts, making everything from inflation to consumer spending harder to predict for years to come. There will always be parts of the economy, like energy prices, that we have less control over, but other aspects can be fixed. One day soon we should again be able to count on fully stocked shelves and more stable prices.

So here's a quick rundown of what should snap back, and what we should all start getting used to as the Covid economy evolves into the new economy.