It’s officially been a year since many of the country’s COVID-19 lockdowns began, and for many Americans it’s been a year of struggling to work from home while caring for kids, or a year of being unemployed and anxiously awaiting more federal aid. For American billionaires, though, it’s been a year of record profits: In the past year, the combined wealth of the nation’s 657 billionaires has increased more than $1.3 trillion, or 44.6%. These billionaires now have a combined net worth of $4.3 trillion, exemplifying the idea of a K-shaped recovery.
That figure comes from the latest report from the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank that has been tracking billionaire wealth during the pandemic since its first “pandemic profiteers” report in April 2020 that showed how billionaire wealth bounced back after the initial stock market crash. A year later, billionaires are still seeing their wealth grow, and there are 43 new billionaires who didn’t even exist at the start of the pandemic.
Fifteen billionaires who saw their wealth grow the most—including Tesla’s Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg—saw a combined increase of $563 billion since March 18, 2020, when COVID-19 lockdowns began. Even among those top billionaires, some saw bigger earnings than others: Musk’s wealth increased by $137.5 billion, or 559%, and Bezos’s by $65 billion, or 58%. In that same year, almost 80 million Americans lost their jobs; as of February 27, 2021, 18 million were still collecting unemployment.