For the first time during the pandemic, most Americans approve of the economic conditions in the United States, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS that was released Wednesday.
That marks the first time since the first week of March 2020, just before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, that most Americans in CNN polling said economic conditions were good.
The milestone provides yet more evidence that the economic rebound from the pandemic is gaining steam.
But the recovery has been uneven, with millions of families still hurting financially.
Among those with incomes under $50,000 annually, only 50% say the economy is in good shape, compared with 58% among those with higher incomes.
Moreover, 45% of Americans say economic conditions are somewhat or very poor, down from a pandemic-era peak of 65% last May.
51% approve of Biden on the economy
The fact that so many people are still struggling shows why the White House is urging Congress to spend aggressively to revitalize the economy and ensure a more equitable recovery.
In his first address to Congress, President Joe Biden plans to make the case Wednesday for a $1.8 trillion American Families Plan that would make two years of community college free, help families afford childcare and increase family leave.
Biden’s approval rating for handling the economy breaks positive in the CNN poll, with 51% approving and 42% disapproving.
The Covid crisis crushed the US economy, causing a severe recession that wiped out millions of jobs and briefly crashed the stock market.
Airlines, hotels, restaurants and retailers were hit particularly hard by stay-at-home orders, social distancing and other health safety precautions.
By last May, a majority of Americans in CNN polling said that economic conditions were somewhat or very poor.
Fastest growth since Reagan?
But the economic recovery from the pandemic is now gaining steam, boosted by the swift rollout of vaccines, the lifting of health safety restrictions and unprecedented help from Washington.
The Federal Reserve is still pumping in massive amounts of stimulus, marked by rock-bottom interest rates and tens of billions of dollars of bond purchases each month. Congress has enacted trillions of dollars in Covid aid packages, including President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan earlier this year.
Signs of economic progress abound. Weekly jobless claims remain elevated but they have tumbled to the lowest levels since the pandemic started. The stock market surged back to record highs and the rally continued after Biden took office. The S&P 500 is up more than 8% since Inauguration Day.
Economists predict the US economy grew at an annualized rate of 6.1% during the first three months of 2021.
A key risk, however, is whether the economy can grow briskly without setting off runaway inflation. If prices spike, the Fed could be forced to raise interest rates more quickly, which could derail the recovery.
Still, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon recently told CNN Business that he hasn’t felt this optimistic about the US economy in a “long time.” In a letter to shareholders, Dimon said the economic boom “could easily run into 2023” because all of the government spending and Fed stimulus could continue for that long.
The CNN poll was conducted by telephone April 21 through 26 among a random national sample of 1,004 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 points.