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US economy grew 5.7% in 2021 in rebound from 2020 recession

Squeezed by inflation and still gripped by COVID-19 caseloads, the economy is expected to keep expanding this year, though at a slower pace. Many economists have been downgrading their forecasts for the current January-March quarter, reflecting the impact of the omicron variant. For all of 2022, the International Monetary Fund has forecast that the the nation’s GDP growth will slow to 4 percent.

January 27, 2022 / 07:34 PM IST

The US economy grew last year at the fastest pace since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, bouncing back with resilience from 2020′s brief but devastating coronavirus recession.


The nation’s gross domestic product — its total output of goods and services — expanded 5.7 percent in 2021. It was the strongest calendar-year growth since a 7.2 percent surge in 1984 after a previous recession.


The economy ended the year by growing at an unexpectedly brisk 6.9 percent annual pace from October through December, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.


Squeezed by inflation and still gripped by COVID-19 caseloads, the economy is expected to keep expanding this year, though at a slower pace. Many economists have been downgrading their forecasts for the current January-March quarter, reflecting the impact of the omicron variant. For all of 2022, the International Monetary Fund has forecast that the the nation’s GDP growth will slow to 4 percent.


Many US businesses, especially restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues, remain under pressure from the omicron variant, which has kept millions of people hunkered down at home to avoid crowds. Consumer spending, the primary driver of the economy, may be further held back this year by the loss of government aid to households, which nurtured activity in 2020 and 2021 but has mainly expired.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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What’s more, the Federal Reserve made clear Wednesday that it plans to raise interest rates multiple times this year to battle the hottest inflation in nearly four decades. Those rate increases will make borrowing more expensive and perhaps slow the economy this year.


Growth last year was driven up by a 7.9 percent surge in consumer spending and a 9.5 percent increase in private investment. For the final three months of 2021, consumer spending rose at a more muted 3.3 percent annual pace. But private investment rocketed 32 percent higher.


Arising from the 2020 pandemic recession, a healthy rebound had been expected for 2021. GDP had shrunk 3.4 percent in 2020, the steepest full-year drop since an 11.6 percent plunge in 1946, when the nation was demobilizing after World War II. The eruption of COVID in March 2020 had led authorities to order lockdowns and businesses to abruptly shut down or reduce hours. Employers slashed a staggering 22 million jobs. The economy sank into a deep recession.


But super-low interest rates, huge infusions of government aid — including $1,400 checks to most households — and, eventually, the widespread rollout of vaccines revived the economy. Many consumers regained the confidence and financial wherewithal to go out and spend again.


The resurgence in demand was so robust, in fact, that it caught businesses off guard. Many struggled to acquire enough supplies and workers to meet a swift increase in customer orders. With many people now working remotely, shortages became especially acute for goods ordered for homes, from appliances to sporting goods to electronic equipment. And with computer chips in especially short supply, auto dealers were left desperately short of vehicles.


Factories, ports and freight yards were overwhelmed, and supply chains became ensnarled. Inflation began to accelerate. Over the past 12 months, consumer prices soared 7 percent — the fastest year-over-year inflation since 1982. Food, energy and autos were among the items whose prices soared the most.

Late last year, the economy began to show signs of fatigue. Retail sales, for instance, fell 1.9 percent in December. And manufacturing slowed in December to its lowest level in 11 months, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index



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Associated Press
first published: Jan 27, 2022 07:33 pm
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