Home / Health / Articles / The 13 numbers that defined 2020

16 million

The number of people known to have had COVID-19 as of December 14. That means around one in 20 Americans have contracted the virus since the onset of the pandemic in the spring; over 296,000 have died. As the year ends, the pandemic has continued to intensify — with over 210,000 new cases and 2,400 deaths reported each day.

The nation is recording record numbers of COVID-19 cases each day.

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How far the S&P 500 fell between February and late March, before recovering to record highs. The early days of the pandemic included not only health concerns but also widespread economic uncertainty, and the initial blow to the stock market was the largest drop in decades.

The S&P 500 is recovering after a large drop earlier this year.

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The percentage of Americans who were unemployed in April, when stay-at-home orders first began to take effect. That’s the highest unemployment rate reported since at least 1948. The economy has rebounded somewhat, with the unemployment rate reaching 6.7% in November, but total employment remains down by 9.8 million jobs compared to February.

In April, the unemployment rate was at its highest in over 70 years.

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3.3 million

The number of passengers who took flights that landed or departed in the US in April, the lowest monthly air travel numbers since at least 1990. That’s far below the nearly 39 million passengers who traveled in the month immediately following the 9/11 attacks. While more people are traveling now than in the spring, air travel remains down, and airlines reported a loss of $14.9 billion between January and June.

Read more about how the pandemic has affected air travel.

April air travel was less than a tenth of what it was in the wake of 9/11.

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The price per barrel of crude oil in April. With fewer people traveling, the price of oil reached its lowest point in decades (adjusted for inflation). That comparison includes 1986, when prices dropped by almost half at the height of the 1980s oil glut, and the oil crisis between 1997 and 1999. The most precipitous declines on record remain the 2008 recession and the 2014 oil glut, though both occurred when oil prices were higher.

The price of oil dropped to its lowest point in over 30 years in April.

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$3.1 trillion

The record federal deficit for the 2020 fiscal year, which began in October of 2019 and ended in September. The government spent $6.5 trillion during that time, largely in an effort to offset the pandemic's economic effects.

Read more about the $2 trillion in funding approved through the CARES Act, which allocated roughly $6,000 per American for spending on stimulus programs.

The federal deficit accrued in FY 2020 was the largest ever.

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The percent drop in real gross domestic product (GDP) between April and June. GDP is often used to estimate the overall health of the economy, and this was the steepest quarterly decline since at least 1947. GDP then grew a record 7.4% from July to September.

Read more about what GDP is and how to understand percent change.

This year included a record drop and recovery for GDP.

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The percentage of adults who reported that they sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat at the start of December, an indication of continuing hardship even as other aspects of the economy show signs of recovery. This is the highest rate of food insecurity recorded this year, after hitting 12% in late July and again in November.

Explore these and other statistics about the impact of COVID-19 at this hub.

9.5 million

The number of acres burned in wildfires so far this year. That’s about half a million fewer than the total acres burned in 2015 and 2017 and 330,000 fewer than in 2006. Those three years account for the most acres burned since reporting was standardized in 1983.

This year was among the four worst for acres burned in wildfires.

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The record number of named storms that made landfall in the US, including Hurricanes Laura, Eta, and Sally. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season “extremely active, with well above normal activity for the season.” A record total of 30 named storms formed this year, 13 of which became hurricanes.

Read more about the price of natural disasters, which have cost the US more than $1.79 trillion since 1980.


The number of federal agencies that provide timely, comprehensive data on excessive use of force and both lethal and non-lethal shootings by police officers. In the wake of this summer’s protests for racial justice, Americans looking for data on use of deadly force by the police had difficulty finding it. The FBI is starting to collect the information, but law enforcement agencies representing only 41% of officers contributed last year. The data will not become public until it covers 80% of officers.


The number of days between the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to fill her seat. How long does it usually take to fill a seat? Find out in the history of Supreme Court nominations and then discover demographics of federal judges.

158 million

The number of votes counted in the November presidential election, according to state reporting. The Federal Election Commission shows that 137 million votes were officially tallied in the 2016 presidential election. Even in the middle of a pandemic, more Americans than ever participated in the electoral process — whether by-mail or in-person.

Over 21 million more votes were counted in this presidential election compared to last.

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S&P 500, Index, Daily, Not Seasonally Adjusted
Series LNS14000000: Unemployment Rate, Seasonally Adjusted
T-100 Market (All Carriers)
Cushing, OK Crude Oil Spot Price
Monthly Treasury Statement
Gross Domestic Product
Household Pulse Survey
Election Results