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Opinion The stock market has been scary. But it’s not all bad news.

Traders work the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during morning trading on May 5 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The past few days on Wall Street have been unsettling — if not downright ugly. After a surge on Wednesday, the Dow shed more than 1,000 points Thursday in its worst day since early in the pandemic, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq index lost 5 percent. The losses continued Friday. It’s hard to watch such rapid nosediving, even for people who subscribe to the long-standing investment advice to “buy and hold.” Wall Street is in a clear correction mode. There’s unease about just how much the economy and corporate profits will slow this year as the Federal Reserve battles inflation, Russia’s war in Ukraine causes widespread pain and consumers get more cautious as prices rise.

But this is not a time to panic. The U.S. economy is showing a lot of resilience. Job openings hit a record high in March and 428,000 jobs were added in April, with gains in nearly every industry. The unemployment rate is basically back at precrisis lows. Black workers and workers with a high school diploma (but no college) are seeing encouraging improvement as well. Overall, this has been the fastest job market rebound in decades. Families and businesses continue to spend, helping propel more growth and jobs.

The reality is that the stock market and many parts of the economy were overheated at the start of this year and needed to cool down. Home prices have skyrocketed more than 30 percent since the start of the pandemic. Housing demand far exceeds housing supply, especially for affordable homes. As the Fed has hiked interest rates, mortgage rates have jumped to their highest levels since 2018, which is starting to cause some people to think twice about buying.

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It’s a similar story for stocks, which rose rapidly in the past decade of ultralow Fed interest rates. The massive market gains have fueled inequality as the rich have made eye-popping profits. While about half of Americans own at least some stocks, mainly in retirement funds, the bulk of the market gains go to the top 10 percent, who own almost 90 percent of U.S. stocks. Giving back a little of those market gains isn’t terrible. It helps curb excess speculation in the market as the Fed reverses course. And while the mega-wealthy are losing billions, many middle-class and lower-income Americans are gaining jobs and higher-than-normal pay raises.

The market pullback right now is consistent with a reassessment, the investment equivalent of a time out. While the Dow is down just over 9 percent this year and the widely watched S&P 500 index is off about 13 percent, this isn’t yet a “bear market,” when the key indexes fall 20 percent from their recent highs. Even with the recent pullback, the Dow is still up more than 55 percent in the past five years.

Risks clearly remain, and inflation is at the top of the list. The Fed is trying to tackle it by slowing the economy gradually, rather than slamming on the brakes and triggering a recession. As Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell said Wednesday, “No one thinks this will be easy.” Still, it’s important to remember that market corrections rarely lead to bear markets and recessions.

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Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.

Members of the Editorial Board and areas of focus: Editorial Page Editor David Shipley, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Karen Tumulty; Associate Opinion Editor Stephen Stromberg (elections, the White House, Congress, legal affairs, energy, the environment, health care); Associate Editor Jonathan Capehart (national politics); Lee Hockstader (immigration; issues affecting Virginia and Maryland); David E. Hoffman (global public health); Charles Lane (foreign affairs, national security, international economics); Heather Long (economics); Associate Editor Ruth Marcus; and Molly Roberts (technology and society).

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