Federal Reserve Using ‘Full Range of Tools’ to Keep Economy GoingSeptember 29th, 2020 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor
Following initial economic impacts in early 2020, door and window companies consistently report that they’re pleasantly surprised—if not perplexed—by robust demand amid COVID-19.
“Quite frankly, I’m surprised that demand has been what it is,” says Jeff Jackson, president and CEO of PGT Innovations. But upticks in consumer spending among such things as home improvement projects follows a pattern, say officials for the Federal Reserve, as surveys show that most Americans are “doing at least okay” amid the pandemic.
As people return to work, officials for the Federal Reserve say they’re committed to using a “full range of tools” to support the U.S. economy. So far, combined with federal relief, those measures appear to be holding up—perhaps in some cases too well, as 40% of unemployment insurance recipients say the benefits they received were larger than their previous wages (in some cases, adding to labor shortages).
Since 2013, the Federal Reserve Board has conducted an annual Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, measuring the economic well-being of U.S. households. Surveys also examine and identify potential risks to household finances. Amid a pandemic, the Board has increased its data points by adding supplemental surveys, vowing to add to its monitoring going forward. Recent results show that U.S. families were better off financially in July 2020 than they were in April, though many continued to weigh the uncertainty of layoffs. In July 2020, 77% of adults said they were at least on stable financial footing, the Board reports—up from 72% in early April, and 75% in October 2019 (before the pandemic began). At the same time, the Board warns that while economic activity and employment have increased in recent months, they remain well below start-of-the-year measurements, making it difficult for companies to have complete confidence going forward.
“It’s still very difficult to plan,” Jackson says. “All of our core markets are still heavily impacted, so you never know what’s going to happen next.”
What happens for door and window manufacturers in the six months ahead depends not only on the economy, but on numerous loose-hanging factors, such as the November election and possible vaccinations. While, “overall financial conditions have improved in recent months, in part reflecting policy measures to support the economy and the flow of credit to U.S. households and businesses, the path of the economy depends significantly on the course of the virus,” officials for the Federal Reserve warn. Long-term, the Federal Open Market Committee aims for maximum employment and inflation of 2%. In order to do so, officials say assessments will take into account such things as readings on public health, labor market conditions, inflation pressures and inflation expectations, as well as related financial and international developments.
As the door and window market leans on housing for demand, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System voted unanimously to approve a primary credit rate of 0.25%, keeping its target for federal funds within the zero to 0.25% range until labor market conditions reach levels consistent with an assessment of maximum employment and inflation has risen to 2%.
In an effort to stay on top of the latest conditions, Board officials say they plan to field the complete annual Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking in the fourth quarter of 2020.