Pandemic caused worst year for US economy since 1946

The United States sees its sharpest contraction in growth since 1946 as the coronavirus pandemic hammered the economy last year, but while the country may be set for a recovery, it hasn’t arrived yet.

The Commerce Department reports the world’s largest economy shrunk by 3.5 percent in 2020 after COVID-19 rearranged daily life, forcing many businesses to shut down or change their operations while laying off workers in droves.

Those mass layoffs, which began in March as the pandemic intensified, continue to take a toll, with the Labor Department reporting nearly 1.3 million new claims for unemployment benefits filed last week.

Illustrative: Medical personnel move a deceased patient to a refrigerated truck serving as a makeshift morgue at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City, April 9, 2020. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

The data underscores the job awaiting President Joe Biden, who took office just over a week ago promising to get the country back on track, and who has proposed spending $1.9 trillion in an initial salvo against the twin economic and health crises.

But by this point, analysts agree there’s only so much the government can do to support the economy, which won’t be back to normal until the raging virus is done away with or has at least been brought to manageable levels.