Since the start of the present pandemic, the US Congress has authorized over \$5 trillion in various forms of economic aid (Business Insider), including the just-signed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. So things are pretty bad, right?
Then why are cargo ships queuing up outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (Axios)? The articles I've read (such as CNBC and WSJ) say the backup is caused by the combination of surging consumer demand and COVID-19 disruptions. I'm looking for data to corroborate that interpretation, because a "surging customer demand" narrative seems to contradict the "the economy is in a bad way" narrative.
So is consumer spending surging? If I am reading these FRED graphs right, personal spending on durable and nondurable goods spending are roughly 10% above pre-pandemic levels. (I'm eyeballing these on a smartphone.) So yes, demand could be described as "surging."
So then why the need for \$1.9 trillion in new government spending? My belief and understanding was that the economy is struggling right now, but then how are we all paying for so much more stuff that our ports are clogged? (I know the pandemic has disproportionately hurt service industries; is that the answer? Spending on goods is fine but the lack of spending on services is dragging the economy down?)
(The COVID-19 disruptions part of the explanation also confuses me but that's less important, and less relevant to this forum. But from that CNBC article, 800 of 15,000 longshoremen have been "out of work due to COVID;" so if 5% of Longshoremen call in sick, the ports grind to a halt? There's got to be more to the story that I'm missing.)