When 2020 dawned, the global economy had just notched its 10th straight year of uninterrupted growth, a streak most economists and government finance officials expected to persist for years ahead in a 21st Century version of the “Roaring ‘20s.”
But within two months, a mysterious new virus first detected in China in December 2019 – the novel coronavirus – was spreading rapidly worldwide, shattering those expectations and triggering the steepest global recession in generations. The International Monetary Fund estimates the global economy to have shrunk by 4.4% this year compared with a contraction of just 0.1% in 2009, when the world last faced a financial crisis.
Government-mandated shutdowns of businesses and any non-essential activities in much of the world unleashed a wave of joblessness not seen since the Great Depression. Still, unemployment levels varied dramatically across the globe.
The pandemic delivered a body blow to global trade, with export volumes dropping abruptly to their lowest in nearly a decade in March and April.
The recovery since then has been led largely by China, which stands alone among major economies in seeing year-over-year growth in exports.