In an age of high energy costs and constricted supply, inflation and unemployment rose together. Forced to choose, governments and central banks decided to prioritise controlling inflation. Western governments made it harder for trade unions to strike, curtailing the ability of workers to demand higher wages. The US Federal Reserve then administered a severe monetary shock to the world economy. In driving interest rates up to exceptionally high levels, Paul Volcker, the chair of the Federal Reserve, accelerated the de-industrialisation of most Western economies.
In the first half of 2020, responses to the COVID-19 pandemic led to steep declines in global petroleum demand and to volatile crude oil markets. The second half of the year was characterized by relatively stable prices as demand began to recover. As petroleum demand fell and U.S. crude oil inventories increased, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil traded at negative prices on April 20, the first time the price for the WTI futures contract fell to less than zero since trading began in 1983. The next day, Brent crude oil, another global crude oil price benchmark, fell to $9.12 per barrel (b), its lowest daily price in decades.