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Latest Issue

The Green Shoots of 2020

October 23, 2020

Those who lived through the last financial crisis might may recall the Green Shoots episode. It drew laughs on March 15, 2009, shortly after the Federal Reserve fired its heaviest artillery and, we now know, launched the longest bull market in history.

Appearing on 60 Minutes, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said the recession’s end was in sight because the Fed’s asset purchases were generating “green shoots.” They turned out to be slow-growing shoots. The US unemployment rate kept getting worse for seven more months (peaking in October), and needed five more years to get where it was when that recession began.

Similarly, you can look around today’s economy and see green shoots here and there. As bad as things are—and make no mistake, they’re bad—we’ve regained some lost ground since the March/April depths. But the problem is in the “here and there” part. Some parts of the economy are literally booming even as others are in a deep, dark depression.

That’s kind of where we are. If you are in the right spot, you see whole forests of green shoots. You might think they are growing everywhere. And in due course maybe they will, but for now, a significant number of people just have dirt.

Last June in A Recession Like No Other I described this recession’s disproportionately hard hit on the service sector. Most lost jobs came from industries built on personal contact, like restaurants and hotels. The outlook for those sectors remains grim. Sadly, the industry is overrepresented in the...

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