In a nation full of statistics, 2020 brought us some frightening numbers | News, Sports, Jobs

We are a happy statistics company. We’re obsessed with the latest numbers on just about everything – birth rates, jobs, and demographic changes – exploring them for trends.

Some statistics are really obscure, like the shocking amount of electricity used by Bitcoin. The complex process of calculating digital currency devours 143 terawatt hours per year – more than the country of Norway! Can you believe

Either way, the commonly quoted statistics are trickling down, but as they are compared to the extremely abnormal pandemic year of 2020, what should we do with them? The answer may be to marvel at the dramatic changes, but with asterisks attached.

Take the changes in the populations of states and cities. California reported a net loss of population last year, the first time since 1900 when the state began counting. The effects of the pandemic, says Hans Johnson of the Public Policy Institute in California, should put an asterisk on last year’s shrinkage.

Two big reasons for this decline were the large number of deaths from COVID-19 and a sharp drop in international immigration. But as the gunshots in California curb the disease and more normal immigration patterns return, the state is expected to resume growth slowly, as it has done in recent years, Johnson adds.

New York State also lost people last year. Some of them were the result of COVID lockdowns sending people out of its cities to less populated areas of the country. As with California, however, this more reflects a decline in foreign immigration, according to the Empire Center.

The country as a whole grew last year at its slowest pace since 1918 – with just 700,000 inhabitants, or 0.2%. Part of that low number reflects deaths from COVID and a lower birth rate. The number of babies born in the United States peaked at 4 million in 2015 and has been declining every year since.

The pandemic may have accelerated the process. Last December, as babies conceived at the start of the health crisis were reportedly born, the US birth rate recorded its biggest drop in history. Was such a severe drop a temporary phenomenon reflecting the health and economic fears of those strange times? We will see.

Cities report significant spikes in shootings. Experts have also offered explanations related to the pandemic. Lost jobs, closed schools and suspended extracurricular activities have left vulnerable youth on the streets where violent youth gangs recruit.

COVID has put the economy on its back, so a big jump to more normal levels of consumer spending is producing price numbers that simply reflect a return to normal. Gasoline prices, for example, climbed 50% in April from the same month of 2020. As a perspective, however, they actually declined 1.4% from March 2021.

Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal expect the economy to grow in the second quarter at an annual rate of 8.1% compared to the same period a year earlier. It would be the hottest growth in about 40 years. Then again, consider the pathetic basis we’re starting at – the 2020 annus horribilis.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number of new COVID cases – nearly 350,000 per week at the start of the month – could drop to less than 10,000 by August if vaccinations continue at a steady pace . The plague appears to be ending and, barring another startling turn of events, the trend lines may start to turn less dramatic.

Obviously, 2021 is turning into a whole new ball game. Making comparisons with the sick and sick year of 2020 may offer opportunities to exclaim about the biggest year-to-year increase or decrease in this or that since the founding of the country. We can have fun with that, but, hey, remember the asterisks.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected]

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