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The Global Economy’s Uneven Recovery

While the US, China, and other leading economies are on their way to a robust recovery, many others are struggling to return to pre-pandemic GDP levels. In most regions, including Europe and Latin America, the 2020 recession will most likely leave long-lasting scars on both GDP and employment.

ITHACA, NEW YORK – The chances for a swift, uniform rebound from the COVID-19 crisis have dimmed, and the world economy now faces sharply divergent growth prospects. Although the latest update of the Brookings-Financial Times Tracking Indexes for the Global Economic Recovery (TIGER) offers some grounds for optimism, it also raises renewed concerns. Vaccination euphoria has been tempered by slow vaccine rollouts in most countries, while fresh waves of COVID-19 infections are threatening many economies’ growth trajectories.

The US and China are shaping up to be the main drivers of global growth in 2021. Household consumption and business investment have surged in both economies, along with measures of private-sector confidence. Industrial production has rebounded in most countries, firming up commodity prices and international trade. Nonetheless, the US, China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea will probably be the only major economies to exceed pre-pandemic GDP levels by the end of this year. In most other regions, the 2020 recession will most likely leave longer-lasting scars on both GDP and employment.

The US economy is poised for a breakout year, as massive fiscal stimulus, loose monetary policies, and pent-up demand translate into rapid GDP growth. Renewed consumer and business confidence has led to generally strong consumption and investment growth, and financial markets have continued to perform well. Even labor market performance has been more encouraging, with 916,000 new jobs added in March, more than double the total for February and the most since last August.