U.S. Economic Outlook Report: August 2021

Report summary

The spread of the Delta variant and corresponding increase in COVID-19 cases slowed economic activity in July and added uncertainty to the longer-term outlook. As cases fell and vaccination rates increased over the spring and early summer, companies had looked for consumers and workers to gradually return to their pre-pandemic habits and expectations. The July outbreak should dispel all parties of hope for a quick return to normal. Heightened economic uncertainty will be a lasting feature of the pandemic. A start-and-stop recovery adds complexity to consumers’ and businesses’ decision making, which will likely limit economic growth in the U.S. above and beyond the direct impact of the Delta variant.

Key Takeaways

  • Consumer confidence tumbled in July in response to the Delta variant and corresponding increase in new coronavirus cases.
  • The share of Americans experiencing a loss of pay or income slightly decreased in July, with low income workers and restaurant and hospitality workers still experiencing elevated levels of pay losses.
  • Americans’ personal finances were the only bright spot in July, but the end of student loan deferrals and missed mortgage and rent payments pose a serious threat to Americans’ finances, particularly those of younger adults.

About the authors

A headshot photograph of John Leer
John Leer
Chief Economist

John Leer leads Morning Consult’s global economic research, overseeing the company’s economic data collection, validation and analysis. He is an authority on the effects of consumer preferences, expectations and experiences on purchasing patterns, prices and employment.

John continues to advance scholarship in the field of economics, recently partnering with researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland to design a new approach to measuring consumers’ inflation expectations.

This novel approach, now known as the Indirect Consumer Inflation Expectations measure, leverages Morning Consult’s high-frequency survey data to capture unique insights into consumers’ expectations for future inflation.

Prior to Morning Consult, John worked for Promontory Financial Group, offering strategic solutions to financial services firms on matters including credit risk modeling and management, corporate governance, and compliance risk management.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and philosophy with honors from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in economics and management studies (MEMS) from Humboldt University in Berlin. 

His analysis has been cited in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Washington Post, The Economist and more.

Follow him on Twitter @JohnCLeer. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected]

A headshot photograph of Kayla Bruun
Kayla Bruun
Senior Economist

Kayla Bruun is a senior economist at decision intelligence company Morning Consult, where she analyzes consumer spending, inflation and household finance trends, leveraging the company’s proprietary high-frequency data.

Prior to joining Morning Consult, Kayla was a key member of the corporate strategy team at telecommunications company SES, where she produced market intelligence and industry analysis of mobility markets. 

Kayla also served as an economist at IHS Markit, where she covered global services industries, provided price forecasts, produced written analyses and served as a subject-matter expert on client-facing consulting projects. 

Kayla earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Emory University and an MBA with a certificate in nonmarket strategy from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Follow her on Twitter @KaylaBruun. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected]

A headshot photograph of Jesse Wheeler
Jesse Wheeler
Senior Economist

Jesse Wheeler previously worked at Morning Consult as a senior economist.