“I found it very encouraging that there are signs that people are waking up from hibernation, buying new clothes and going to restaurants,” said Beth Ann Bovino, US chief economist at S&P Global. “I think people are optimistic that the US will win the war on the virus. And they have good reason to be hopeful. “
Many economists said strong retail sales are likely to continue into the spring once the new stimulus payments are used up.
The gradual return to normal activities as business restrictions wear off has in turn led employers to recall workers – and this time hold on to them.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to around 613,000, the lowest level since the pandemic began. That was a decrease of 153,000, the biggest decrease from the week since summer.
In addition, 132,000 new claims were submitted for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers freelancers, part-time workers, and others who are not routinely eligible for government benefits. That was a decrease of 20,000 from the previous week.
“We’re gaining momentum here, which is undeniable,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at accounting firm Grant Thornton.
There are more general signs of a comeback as well.
After a disastrous year, airlines are getting more and more hopeful as travelers return. In the past month, according to the Transportation Security Administration, more than a million people were examined every day at checkpoints at the federal airport. This is a signal that a sustainable recovery of the trip is underway.