We are six and a half months into the global pandemic. How is everyone doing? One subset of Americans is doing exceptionally well – billionaires. Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and all of the other American billionaires have seen their wealth absolutely skyrocket over the past six months – which is in stark contrast to the millions of Americans out of work or earning less than they were before Covid-19 swept the nation. The 643 richest Americans have made an astounding $845 billion between March 18 and September 15. That's a combined uptick in their net worths of 29%.
On the other side of things, the pandemic has created the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. Entire industries – restaurants, live performances, Hollywood productions, catering, service industries, etc. have shut down. The unemployment rate hit 14% in April. By August it was 8.4%, partly due to some businesses and industries reopening, partly due to unemployment benefits running out and those people no longer being tallied in the overall number of people out of work.
A number of the increases in billionaires' bottom lines are tied to company fortunes. Amazon's stock is up more than 60% this year – thanks in part to the increase in people shopping online for food and goods rather than risking catching Covid-19 by going to stores. Jeff Bezos' fortune is up more than $55 billion since early February. The Walton family has also seen their collective net worths rise by more than $60 billion in the same time frame for the same reasons. Walmart's stock is up 80% since this time last year.
Google co-founder Larry Page has seen his wealth increase by more than $18 billion since February. Elon Musk has made $70 billion in that same time, thanks to hitting certain goals, called trenches, laid out in his Tesla contract.
Billionaires in general, but especially American billionaires are seeing their wealth grow in unprecedented ways in 2020, creating a larger and larger chasm between the richest Americans and the rest of us.