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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. economic activity fell more sharply in the second quarter of this year than during any other quarter in history. It's also going to grow more sharply in the third quarter of this year than during any other quarter in history.

  • The recession is over, according to Wall Street, with current forecasts showing sustained economic growth through 2021 and beyond.

Why it matters: The novel coronavirus is still raging in the U.S., with well over 5,000 Americans still dying every week. But the continued prevalence of the pandemic doesn't seem to have crimped economic growth.

The big picture: America is in bad economic shape, and we've had very little economic stimulus since the federal government's $600 weekly unemployment checks stopped arriving in July.

  • Some 30 million Americans are on the unemployment rolls, entire industries are at a standstill, and economic output remains hundreds of billions of dollars below its pre-pandemic levels.

The other side: The Federal Reserve on Wednesday released its official forecast for how the economy is going to fare this year.

  • In June, when coronavirus cases were declining quite quickly, the Fed expected that we would end the year with unemployment at 9.3%, and saw the economy shrinking by 6.5%.
  • Today, with coronavirus deaths still at their June levels, the Fed is much more optimistic. It sees 2020 ending with unemployment at 7.6% and an economy that has shrunk by just 3.7%. That's still terrible, of course, for workers who are out of a job and businesses that are fighting for survival.

By the numbers: The difference is huge — almost 3 million extra jobs, and more than $600 billion in economic activity, over and above what the Fed expected just three months ago.

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Wall Street has seen a similar turnaround in growth expectations. Quarterly GDP growth is measured on an annualized basis. On that basis, economic forecasters in April expected the third quarter to see a bounceback on the order of 13%.

  • By June, their forecast had improved to 18%. Now, they expect third-quarter GDP to grow at an astonishing 25.2% rate.

Between the lines: The rise in growth forecasts comes in the wake of new data showing surprisingly robust economic activity over the course of the third quarter, which ends next week.

  • It also shows just how difficult it is to make economic projections when there is no real precedent to look to.

The bottom line: "The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus," said the Fed in its most recent statement. But the past couple of months of economic growth have proved that the economy can grow much faster than expected even while the virus still rages.

Go deeper

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
Nov 24, 2020 - World

Remote work shakes up geopolitics

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The global adoption of remote work may leave the rising powers in the East behind.

The big picture: Despite India's and China's economic might, these countries have far fewer remote jobs than the U.S. or Europe. That's affecting the emerging economies' resilience amid the pandemic.

Court rejects Trump campaign's appeal in Pennsylvania case

Photo: Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Friday unanimously rejected the Trump campaign's emergency appeal seeking to file a new lawsuit against Pennsylvania's election results, writing in a blistering ruling that the campaign's "claims have no merit."

Why it matters: It's another devastating blow to President Trump's sinking efforts to overturn the results of the election. Pennsylvania, which President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 80,000 votes, certified its results last week and is expected to award 20 electoral votes to Biden on Dec. 12.

Dave Lawler, author of World
41 mins ago - World

Belarus dictator Lukashenko says he'll leave post after new constitution

Photo: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty

Longtime Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has said he will step down after a new constitution comes into force, according to Belarusian state media.

Why it matters: Lukashenko has faced three months of protests following a rigged election in August. He has promised to reform the constitution to reduce the near-absolute powers of the president, but has insisted that his strong hand is needed to see that process through.