5 charts show the stages of global economic recovery since Covid hit

Commuters on a train in Hong Kong on March 2, 2022, amid the Covid pandemic.
Dale De La Rey | AFP | Getty Images

Oil prices plunged, travel came to a halt and unemployment rates spiked when the coronavirus hit in early 2020.

Then, signs of recovery emerged. Stock markets rebounded and quickly surpassed 2019 levels, while the global economy has begun to recover, though the pace varies with region and industry.

Two years after the WHO declared Covid a pandemic, here are five charts that show much — or how little — the world has recovered.

Demand for oil

Oil prices have been on a wild ride since early 2020 in reaction to both demand and supply factors.

Demand first evaporated as lockdowns took effect, but later crept back, causing supply concerns in 2021.

Global oil demand stood at 100.1 million barrels per day in 2019, and has not fully recovered yet, according to OPEC estimates.

The Russia-Ukraine war has thrown the oil market into chaos again, with Russian crude sanctioned by the U.S. and U.K.

During Asian trading hours, U.S. oil futures were up 0.3% at $106.38 per barrel, while international benchmark Brent crude was up 0.12% at $109.46 per barrel.

Higher oil prices are likely to dampen demand, though that would not be related to the pandemic.

Airline seat capacity

The travel industry was hit particularly hard by the pandemic since many countries closed their borders and encouraged residents to stay home as much as possible.

Weekly seat capacity dropped drastically before recovering, but is still far off from the average in 2019, according to global travel data provider OAG.

“Global weekly seats will be 82[million] and overall capacity is sitting at 23% below the same week in 2019, the company said in an update on March 7.

Airline capacity is expected to reach 100 million seats per week by mid-May, OAG added.

According to CNBC calculations, the average weekly seat capacity in 2019 was 110,716,079.


Lockdown measures led to job losses around the world. In the United States, the unemployment rate spiked to 14.7%, a post-World War II record.

Jobless rates also increased in other countries.

Using December 2019 data as a benchmark, unemployment rates in China and Germany have more or less returned to pre-Covid levels. Japan and the U.S. are still reporting slightly elevated unemployment rates.

Interest rates

Central banks slashed interest rates in 2020 to support the economy as Covid spread.

Countries such as the U.K. and South Korea have since raised rates, and the Federal Reserve is expected to do so at its March meeting.

Still, interest rates are far below what they were before the pandemic hit.

Government debt

Governments spent more to protect the economy from the effects of the pandemic and its economic impact.

According to data from the Bank of International Settlements, government debt-to-GDP ratios climbed and are still higher compared with pre-Covid times.

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