The wait has begun
It’s finally happening. Vaccinations have already begun in the UK. Delivery for the Pfizer vaccine is expected to begin across the US on Monday. Approval for Moderna’s vaccine is expected to come later this week. Despite that good news, we’re literally writing history with some of the deadliest days on record happening throughout this past week as COVID-19 deaths are surging.
Moral of the story: The NYTimes published an interactive tool that helps you “find your place in line” for a vaccine based on your age, occupation, health conditions, and location. There are 144.1m people ahead of me in line across the country, including 742k people ahead of me in my county alone. Plus, there are sure to be those who refuse to get vaccinated. At the end of the day, we’re still a while away from being out of this mess despite being able to see the light at the end of this tunnel.
Something to watch
Consumer prices (i.e. a measure of inflation) increased slightly in November but still remains at a meager 1.2% compared to last year. For reference, the Federal Reserve is aiming for an average 2% inflation target and consumer inflation was running around 2.3% pre-COVID. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, is a little higher at 1.6%. We saw small price increases in November in categories like clothes, home furnishings, and alcohol, all of which totally checks out if my Thanksgiving was the norm.
Moral of the story: Inflation is caused by a few different things – increase in production costs (raw materials, wages), increase in demand (companies can charge more because they know people will still buy their goods/services – think Disney+ or Netflix increasing their subscription prices), a hot housing market (it is red hot today), or expansionary fiscal/monetary policy (CARES Act, lower taxes, 0% interest rates, etc.). Some of these factors are in full force already. Once the vaccine roll-out happens in a bigger way and the economy begins to recover, we could see inflation becoming much more topical as higher wages and demand will likely come into the picture as well. While we want inflation to be around 2%, much higher is not ideal.
Stay home, wear a mask
Weekly jobless claims spiked to a 3-month high as surging cases are leading to more government restrictions and increasing layoffs. New claims increased the most in California, Texas, and New York. Claims being paid by federal COVID relief funds continue to increase and have tripled since August.
Moral of the story: Even with the vaccine beginning its roll-out, the next few months are going to be rough as we try to get through the current levels of cases and hospitalizations, which are bound to see another increase after Christmas and New Year’s gatherings. As long as cases remain this elevated, it’s going to be difficult to achieve any sort of recovery in the labor market. Here’s to hoping the cold winter weather at least motivates more people to wear masks because, tbh, it kinda slaps.