For Tens of Millions of Americans, the Good Times Are Right Now
“We are very fortunate right now given the situation for many others during the pandemic,” said Mr. McCauley, 36, who works for a data orchestration company. “Somehow we are doing even better financially, and it feels a bit awkward.”
Even for those doing well, the economy feels precarious. The University of Michigan’s venerable Index of Consumer Sentiment fell in March to the same levels as 1979, when the inflation rate was a painful 11 percent, before rising in April.
Politicians are mostly quiet about the boom.
“Republicans are not anxious to give President Biden credit for anything,” said Mr. Baker, the economist. “The Democrats could boast about how many people have gotten jobs, and the strong wage growth at the bottom, but they seem reluctant to do this, knowing that many people are being hit by inflation.”
The initial coronavirus outbreak ended the longest U.S. economic expansion in modern history after 128 months. A dramatic downturn began. The federal government stepped in, generously spreading cash around. Spending habits shifted as people stayed home. The recession ended after two months, and the boom resumed.
Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, recently warned that there were too many employers chasing too few workers, saying the labor market was “tight to an unhealthy level.” But for workers, it’s gratifying to have the upper hand in looking for a new position or career.
“Both my husband and I have been able to make job changes that have doubled our income from five years ago,” said Lindsay Bernhagen, 39, who lives in Stevens Point, Wis., and works for a start-up. “It feels like it has mostly been dumb luck.”
A decade ago, the housing market was in chaos. Between 2007 and 2015, more than seven million homes were lost to foreclosure, according to Black Knight. Some of these were speculative purchases or second homes, but many were primary residences. Egged on by lenders, people lived in houses they could not easily afford.