Chairman Crapo, Ranking Member Brown, and other members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to update you on our ongoing measures to address the hardship wrought by the pandemic.
Our public health professionals continue to deliver our most important response, and we remain grateful for their service.
The Federal Reserve, along with others across government, is using its policies to help alleviate the economic burden. Since the pandemic’s onset, we have taken forceful actions to provide relief and stability, to ensure that the recovery will be as strong as possible, and to limit lasting damage to the economy.
Economic activity has continued to recover from its depressed second-quarter level. The reopening of the economy led to a rapid rebound in activity, and real gross domestic product, or GDP, rose at an annual rate of 33 percent in the third quarter. In recent months, however, the pace of improvement has moderated.
Household spending on goods, especially durable goods, has been strong and has moved above its pre-pandemic level. In contrast, spending on services remains low largely because of ongoing weakness in sectors that typically require people to gather closely, including travel and hospitality.
The overall rebound in household spending is due, in part, to federal stimulus payments and expanded unemployment benefits, which provided essential support to many families and individuals.
In the labor market, more than half of the 22 million jobs that were lost in March and April have been regained, as many people were able to return to work. As with overall economic activity, the pace of improvement in the labor market has moderated. Although we welcome this progress, we will not lose sight of the millions of Americans who remain out of work. The economic downturn has not fallen equally on all Americans, and those least able to shoulder the burden have been hardest hit. In particular, the high level of joblessness has been especially severe for lower-wage workers in the services sector, for women, and for African Americans and Hispanics. The economic dislocation has upended many lives and created great uncertainty about the future.
As we have emphasized throughout the pandemic, the outlook for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain and will depend, in large part, on the success of efforts to keep the virus in check.
The rise in new COVID-19 cases, both here and abroad, is concerning and could prove challenging for the next few months. A full economic recovery is unlikely until people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities.
Recent news on the vaccine front is very positive for the medium term. For now, significant challenges and uncertainties remain, including timing, production and distribution, and efficacy across different groups. It remains difficult to assess the timing and scope of the economic implications of these developments with any degree of confidence.
The Federal Reserve’s response has been guided by our mandate to promote maximum employment and stable prices for the American people, along with our responsibilities to promote the stability of the financial system. We have been taking broad and forceful actions to more directly support the flow of credit in the economy. Our actions, taken together, have helped unlock almost $2 trillion of funding to support businesses large and small, nonprofits, and state and local governments since April. This, in turn, has helped keep organizations from shuttering and has put employers in both a better position to keep workers on and to hire them back as the economy continues to recover.
These programs serve as a backstop to key credit markets and have helped restore the flow of credit from private lenders through normal channels. We have deployed these lending powers to an unprecedented extent. Our emergency lending powers require the approval of the Treasury and are available only in very unusual circumstances, such as those we find ourselves in today. Many of these programs have been supported by funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and I have included detailed information about those facilities in my written testimony.
The CARES Act assigns sole authority over its funds to the Treasury Secretary, subject to the statute’s specified limits. The Secretary has indicated that these limits do not permit the CARES Act-funded facilities to make new loans or…