(Reuters) – Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Thomas Barkin on Wednesday said he sees three phases for the U.S. economy this year and overall he is “quite optimistic” thanks to gains health officials appear to be making in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control.
The first third of the year will be the most challenging, with a continuing need for measures to support unemployed workers and small businesses while vaccination efforts gain traction, he told a virtual event hosted by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
The second phase around mid-year will see vaccinated populations reengaging in activities that they have had to forego for much of the last year, adding he sees a fair bit of “pent up demand” for pursuits including travel and entertainment.
Lastly, the final third of the year should see a return to a more normal business environment, Barkin said. Nonetheless, the most important plank to achieving his outlook is success on the public health front, he said.
(Reporting By Dan Burns)