Real Personal Income less Transfer Payments

Government transfer payments increased sharply in March compared to February, and were $4.8 trillion (on SAAR basis) above the February 2020 level (pre-pandemic).  Most of the increase in transfer payments – compared to the levels prior to the crisis – is from unemployment insurance and "other" (includes direct payments). 

This table shows the amount of unemployment insurance and "Other" transfer payments since February 2020 (pre-crisis level).  The increase in "Other" was mostly due to parts of the relief acts including direct payments.
There was a large increase in "Other" in March due to the American Rescue Plan Act.

Selected Transfer Payments
Billions of dollars, SAAR OtherUnemployment
InsuranceFeb-20$506$28Mar-20$515$74Apr-20$3,379$493May-20$1,360$1,356Jun-20$758$1,405Jul-20$760$1,331Aug-20$692$636Sep-20$936$359Oct-20$732$304Nov-20$620$281Dec-20$654$304Jan-21$2,357$556 Feb-21$782$535 Mar-21$4,751$541
A key measure of the health of the economy (Used by NBER in recession dating) is Real Personal Income less Transfer payments.

Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows real personal income less transfer payments since 1990.

This measure of economic activity increased 0.9% in March, compared to February, and was down 1.2% compared to February 2020 (previous peak).

Another way to look at this data is as a percent of the previous peak.

Real personal income less transfer payments was off 8.1% in April 2020. That was a larger decline than the worst of the great recession.

Currently personal income less transfer payments are still off 1.2% (dashed line).

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