NRF Economist: Recession May Have Ended Already, But Second COVID-19 Wave is ‘Major Threat’ to Retail Recovery

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) chief economist Jack Kleinhenz surmises that the recession brought on by the outbreak of COVID-19 may have already ended. Citing encouraging tailwinds such as a rebound in jobs (7.5 million jobs in May and June combined) and a strong quarter by the stock market, Kleinhenz says that the recession could be over just as fast as it came, though that won’t be determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research for a while.

“While it would be unusual for a recession to last less than six months, it is possible,” says Kleinhenz. “The bad news is there is plenty of uncertainty on the shape of the reopening of the economy, and the recovery will be slow even if we are no longer in recessionary territory.”

Despite the upward trajectory of the U.S. economy on metrics such as consumer spending and retail sales, Kleinhenz emphasizes that the economic recovery will still be dictated by whether efforts to end the pandemic are successful. The veteran economist warns that the second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks in markets such as Florida and Texas is a “major threat” to the recovery.

“These outbreaks are alarming, and if they accelerate will certainly sway consumer and business confidence, taking a toll on output and employment and prolonging the time it takes to achieve a true economic recovery,” says Kleinhenz.

Washington, D.C.-based NRF has advocated for retailers and policies for more than 100 years. The NRF has approximately 18,000 members, including department, specialty, discount, catalog, e-commerce, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores.

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