A run of strong economic data appears to have finally punctured consumers’ sour mood about the U.S. economy, blasting away recession fears and potentially aiding President Biden in his re-election campaign.
Mr. Biden has struggled to sell voters on the positive signs in the economy under his watch, including rapid job gains, low unemployment and the fastest rebound in economic growth from the pandemic recession of any wealthy country.
For much of Mr. Biden’s term, forecasters warned of imminent recession. Consumers remained glum, and voters told pollsters they were angry with the president for the other big economic development of his tenure: a surge of inflation that peaked in 2022, with the fastest rate of price growth in four decades.
Much of that narrative appears to be changing. After lagging price growth early in Mr. Biden’s term, wages are now rising faster than inflation. The economy grew 3.1 percent from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023, defying expectations, including robust growth at the end of the year. The inflation rate is falling toward historically normal levels. U.S. stock markets are recording record highs.
The Federal Reserve, which sharply raised interest rates to tame price growth, signaled this week that it was likely to start cutting rates soon. “This is a good economy,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, whose central bank is independent from the White House, declared at a news conference this week.
The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index has jumped in each of the past two months. A key component of it, in which consumers rate their current economic situations, is closing in on its recent high from February 2020, on the eve of the coronavirus pandemic.