And it starts with an overview of what we know about the holiday season so far with Thanksgiving behind us and Hanukkah and Christmas on the way.
Sunday was expected to be the busiest travel day in America since the coronavirus pandemic sank in early this year. We don't have final numbers for it yet, but we can report that roughly 1 million and 71 thousand people passed through U.S. airport checkpoints on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That was the most since March.
It was less than half the number of airline travelers on the same day last year but travel officials expected that more Americans would be driving this time around. So overall, fewer people were expected to travel during the pandemic but not by a lot as compared with last year. And that reflects a significant part of the population that said the pandemic would not affect their Thanksgiving plans though it did for many other Americans.
Observers say the pandemic is part of the reason why an estimated 50 million Americans won't have enough to eat this year. "Feeding America", a hunger relief group, says that estimate of 50 million is 6 million short of where it was during the "Great Recession" whose effect sank in in 2008. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it set aside $850 million to help food banks with their running costs and food purchases. It says it has an additional $873 million available to buy farm products for food banks. The money came from the $2.2 trillion COVID Relief Bill that President Donald Trump signed in March.
As far as economic indicators go, an analyst with the National Retail Federation says overall stocks are up, home values are growing and wages are rising. So his organization expects that shopping sales will be higher this year than they were in 2019.
Experts say that some Americans are willing to spend a little more on Christmas gifts to psychologically make up for some of the challenges they've faced throughout the year. But others don't have as much money to spend this time around, so predictions like this are a mixed bag and the way people shop have clearly been affected in 2020.