Over 44 million U.S. citizens lost jobs as authorities introduced lockdown measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, officially COVID-19, disease. The U.S. is finding a decline in the jobless rate. Lines in front of Food Banks are increasing. The U.S. Federal Reserve forecast on employment and the overall economic situation, which is said to be the most optimistic, paints a gloomy picture of the economy. The pandemic has resulted in the worst slowdown of economy since the Great Depression.

At the beginning the situation looked like it was even-handed, showing no mercy to either common workers or billionaires. But within a short time, the situation changed. The rich persons not only were  recovering their losses, but they were also increasing their wealth significantly. In the U.S. 11 billionaires, according to a report by the Washington DC based Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), have become richer during the pandemic.

The report – Billionaire Bonanza 2020/ “Billionaire pandemic wealth gains surge past half-trillion as 42.6 million file for unemployment” – said: U.S. billionaire wealth up $565 billion since March 18, a gain of over 19 percent.

The June 4, 2020 report by Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the IPS, said:

In a turbulent week across nation, U.S. billionaire wealth has surged past half a trillion dollars since the beginning of the pandemic unemployment.

The announcement on June 4 that 1.9 million more Americans have filed for unemployment in the last week brings total unemployment filings to over 42.6 million since March 18, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This does not include millions more workers who have applied for help as self-employed workers.

Over these same 11 weeks, between March 18 and June 4, the cumulative total wealth of U.S. billionaires has increased $565 billion, an increase of 19.15 percent.

The markets have risen, but certain individual fortunes have surged significantly over market gains. In the eleven weeks since March 18, the following billionaires have seen their wealth accelerate:

Jeff Bezos – up $36.2bn
Mark Zuckerberg – up $30.1bn
Elon Musk – up $14.1bn
Sergey Brin – up $13.9bn
Larry Page – up $13.7bn
Steve Ballmer – up $13.3bn
MacKenzie Bezos – up $12.6bn
Michael Bloomberg – up $12.1bn
Bill Gates – up $11.8bn
Phil Knight – up $11.6bn
Larry Ellison – up $8.5bn
Warren Buffett – up $7.7bn
Michael Dell – up $7.6bn
Sheldon Adelson – up   $6.1bn

It said:

One commentator complained that by picking March 18, IPS research is only capturing the recovery in billionaire wealth that plummeted in the proceeding weeks in late February and early March. It is true, the market has done better since then. But a large segment of the U.S. billionaire class is beating the market. And we stand by our analysis that it is newsworthy and meaningful that billionaire wealth is accelerating while others are experiencing job losses, declining savings, debilitating illness, and death.

The reason IPS pinpoints March 18 as a date for tracking wealth is because that date is tied to this year’s annual Forbes Global Billionaire survey, published on April 7. This year Forbes reported that total U.S. billionaire wealth had declined from its 2019 levels, from $3.111 trillion down to $2.947 trillion. But our report showed that these losses were quickly erased within weeks. As of June 4, total U.S. billionaire wealth is $3.512 trillion, a $565 billion increase over March 18, and a $401 billion increase over last year’s Forbes billionaire survey. There are also 16 more billionaires than two months ago.

Some billionaires have lost wealth since the beginning of the year, especially those in the oil and gas sector. Warren Buffet is down over $14 billion since the beginning of the year. But even during a time of unprecedented economic adversity, some billionaires are riding higher than ever.

The report added:

According to Bloomberg estimates, with their just-in-time analysis of the top 50 U.S. billionaires, Jeff Bezos is still $34 billion ahead of where he was on January 1st. Steve Balmer is up $9 billion. Elon Musk is up $15.3 billion. Mark Zuckerberg is up $9 billion. The top 50 billionaires as a group, however, are up over $39 billion during the worst health and economic calamity of the modern era.

The fortunate billionaires

Larry Ellison

Increase: US $8.5 billion; total wealth: US $67.5 billion.

Beginning the list is the 75-year-old co-founder, executive chairman, and CTO of the Oracle Corporation, known for his aggressive comments about IT companies and criticism of whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the 1970s, this college dropout started a company that became a rival of Microsoft in the database management market and put Ellison on a list of the wealthiest individuals in the world. The company’s earnings this year made it a good choice for investment, with experts assessing that Oracle has a higher-than-average ROE (return on equity).

Phil Knight

Increase: US $11.6 billion; total wealth: US $41.1 billion.

Nike is another company that experts say one should invest in. The company’s digital transition amid the pandemic has yielded benefits, with Nike’s direct-to-consumer business accelerating and consequently making Knight, who co-founded Nike, a wealthier person. Like most people on the list, the 82-year-old is closely linked with charity work. In 2017, Knight revealed that he donated $112 million worth of Nike’s stock to charity.

Bill Gates

Increase: US $11.8 billion; total Wealth: US $110 billion.

Here is a person that needs no introduction. Gates, who has donated about $50 billion to charitable causes over the course of his career and warned that the world is not prepared for a global pandemic several years ago, has also become a victim of it, with numerous conspiracy theorists claiming that he is using the coronavirus outbreak to implant microchips into people en masse – which will be done through COVID-19 vaccines.

The 64-year-old, who donated more than $100 million to an organization to purchase coronavirus vaccines, recently called these claims stupid. This, however, has not calmed down the 28 percent of Americans, according to a poll by Yahoo News/YouGov, who believe that Gates is involved in a secret plot.

Michael Bloomberg

Increase: US $12.1 billion; total wealth: US $60.1 billion.

The 78-year-old, who served as the mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013, ended years of speculation by launching an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in the upcoming elections. Bloomberg, who co-founded his financial, software, data and media company in 1981 and is a majority owner, has frequently found himself on the list of the world’s richest individuals.

MacKenzie Bezos

Increase: US $12.6 billion; total wealth: US $48.6 billion.

Following her divorce from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie became the world’s third wealthiest woman. Amazon’s steady growth during the pandemic made the 50-year-old even richer. In 2019, she signed a Giving Pledge, promising to give $17 billion to charitable causes over her lifetime or in her will.

Steve Ballmer

Increase: US $13.3 billion; total wealth: US $66.0 billion.

His tenure as Microsoft’s CEO was controversial. Some praised Ballmer for the company’s financial success as it managed to triple its sales and double its profits, but critics say that under his leadership, the company lost its market dominance and missed new technology trends. His remark that the iPhone had “no chance” of getting any significant market share is still remembered by many. In 2014, he made what experts said was his best investment by purchasing the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, which made him an even wealthier individual.

Larry Page

Increase: US $13.7 billion; total wealth: US $64.6 billion.

Here is a person that you may not have heard about, but whose product you have been using constantly – Google. Together with Sergei Brin, who is also on the list of wealthiest people, Page is the controlling shareholder of Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google and the world’s fourth largest technology company.

Sergei Brin

Increase: US $13.9 billion; total wealth: US $63 billion.

Like his former partner, Brin has been investing in Tesla, the shares of which have been steadily increasing in value. Since 2012, he has been involved in Google’s research and development program Project Glass, which is developing augmented-reality headpieces that will allow users to access information on the Internet hands-free by using voice commands.

Elon Musk

Increase: US $14.1 billion; total wealth: US $38.7 billion.

Unlike most of us, Musk has had an extremely successful year – he has become father for the seventh time, his brainchild SpaceX launched American astronauts to space from US soil for the first time in nine years, and Tesla’s shares have seen a significant rise despite the fact that the world economy is suffering its worst downturn since 1929. Musk has been an outspoken advocate for lifting the coronavirus safety measures that have crippled the US economy. This has resulted in several feuds with U.S. officials.

Mark Zuckerberg

Increase – US $30.1 billion; total wealth – US $84.8 billion.

Zuckerberg is world’s youngest self-made billionaire (if one is to believe Forbes’ expose on Kylie Jenner, which stripped the reality star of the title last month). Despite privacy scandals and what experts consider to be a decline in popularity, Facebook managed to generate $17.7 billion during the first three months of this year, resulting in a jump for the company’s shares.

Jeff Bezos

Increase – US $36.2 billion; total wealth – US $149 billion.

For a long time, there was only one king of the jungle – Bill Gates. But this all changed in 2017, when he briefly unseated the Microsoft co-founder; however, a year later Gates lost for good. During the pandemic, the digital world has become the new modus operandi and e-commerce has become an integral part of the new reality. So no wonder Amazon’s shares have jumped amid the pandemic, significantly increasing Bezos’ wealth.

At the time of writing, Forbes’ real-time billionaire list estimates his worth at $154 billion. Experts say that if his fortune continues growing at the current rate, Bezos is set to become world’s first trillionaire.


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