Research / BFI Working PaperNov 16, 2021

COVID-19 Uncertainty: A Tale of Two Tails

Philip Bunn, David Altig, Lena Anayi, Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven J. Davis, Brent Meyer, Emil Mihaylov, Paul Mizen, Greg Thwaites

Uncertainty about own-firm sales growth rates over the year ahead roughly doubled in reaction to the COVID shock, according to our surveys of U.S. and U.K. business executives. Firm-level uncertainty receded after spring 2020 but remains much higher than pre-COVID levels. Moreover, the nature of firm-level uncertainty has shifted greatly since the pandemic struck: Initially, business executives perceived an enormous increase in downside uncertainty, which has now dissipated. As of October 2021, almost all of the extra firm-level uncertainty is to the upside. In short, economic uncertainty associated with the pandemic has morphed from a tale of the lower tail into a tale about the upper tail.

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