An Election Fought With Charts


Bad weather scrubbed the historic launch of a crewed SpaceX mission yesterday, so NASA will try again this weekend. (Want this in your inbox each morning? Sign up here.)

In this quarter, the U.S. economy is expected to record the largest decline on record. But many expect it to bounce back in the next, perhaps at the fastest ever rate. A similar pattern could follow for jobs, with millions fired in the spring and millions hired in the summer. Such is the statistical weirdness that results from a pandemic.

In an election year, the politics of statistics will be more fraught than ever, with different sets of data painting sharply different, but equally valid, pictures of economic health. Given when states are reopening, the numbers released just before the vote could be particularly robust, which makes Democrats nervous and Republicans hopeful.

Context matters. Here’s a typical 2020 forecast, from Pantheon Economics. Expected quarter-to-quarter rates of growth trace a V-shaped recovery, but year-over-year comparisons show an economy that never fully recovers.

• Median wage growth and jobs by educational attainment give a more nuanced view than the headline stats, which can be skewed by high earners or boom sectors.

• And he wouldn’t look at the stock market to assess the economy at large: It’s “our best guess about the future, but it’s still a lousy guess.”

“We’re all looking for data to tell us what we already think,” he said. The debate about the trade-offs between reopening and keeping infections down suggests that “we seem unable to hold onto two true notions at the same time,” he added. “I am not optimistic that we can and will discuss these things in a sophisticated way.”

Disney World will reopen in July. But it will run at half capacity or less, make masks mandatory and enforce social distancing (no hugging Mickey).

They have worked through the slowest economic growth of any generation since the early 1800s, Mr. Van Dam writes. The oldest millennials started job-hunting during the dot-com bust. Then came the Sept. 11 attacks, the 2008 financial crisis and now the pandemic.

• Starting in lower-paying jobs has been shown to reduce lifetime earnings potential.

Millennials are doing the right things — they overspend less than previous generations. But they’ve had little chance to build a cash cushion, and each downturn has hit them harder than generations with more savings.

The E.U. is starting to look like a central government. The proposal going to national leaders calls for joint borrowing on a new scale, bringing the bloc closer to a common budget that might be paid for with shared taxes. And €500 billion of it would be grants for countries in the greatest need — Italy and Spain foremost. Europe’s richest countries have previously rejected much smaller fiscal transfers.

Last year, podcasts generated nearly $530 million in advertising in the U.S., according to Zenith. That was just 0.2 percent of overall ad spending.

But a handful of brave companies have raised their earnings forecasts in recent weeks, according to FactSet. The list of companies could describe a common lockdown routine: eating comfort foods like sugary cereal and beef jerky (General Mills and ConAgra), stocking up the medicine cabinet (Eli Lilly), obsessively cleaning (Clorox), using remote-networking software for work (Citrix) and blowing off steam by playing “Call of Duty” (Activision Blizzard).





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