Friday, January 1, 2021

What Giant Skeletons and Puppy Shortages Told Us About the 2020 Economy

 Americans are divided over many things, but we can all agree that 2020 was tragic, terrifying and generally no good. Yet amid the sadness and strife, our social lives evolved rapidly and the coronavirus pandemic ushered in changes that could leave a lasting mark on the economy.

It was a year in which “pandemically” served as an email signoff, and our friends’ Instagram sourdough pics gave us a real-time lesson in self-selection bias. (Somebody, somewhere made an ugly loaf, but you wouldn’t guess it from social media.) Zoom dates took awkwardness to new heights. Joggers may be the new pencil skirt.

Unemployment and anxiety skyrocketed, and the virus continues to inflict an enormous human cost. But America managed to find silver linings in the darkness, and below we run through a few of the year’s more colorful trends, and what they might mean for future consumer spending, work life and markets.

The monetary kind — we could not get enough of it. When the economy shut down in March and April, disruptions to normal spending patterns meant that less physical cash was changing hands, compounded by the fact that people stopped taking their piggy banks to grocery store coin exchangers. Retailers around the country ran short on quarters, nickels and pennies as too few poured into the system and were circulated. A scramble to fix things ensued: The Federal Reserve convened a task force. Because it was 2020, fact checkers had to debunk coin conspiracy theories. The government tried to make #getcoinmoving happen. Normality has yet to fully return, according to a Fed spokeswoman.

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