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The Economy Under COVID-19: Notes From the Trenches - April 23, 2020

Alex Carrick
The Economy Under COVID-19: Notes From the Trenches - April 23, 2020

There are currently two crises underway simultaneously. The advance of the novel coronavirus is taking a terrible toll in terms of physical and emotional well-being. At the same time, job losses resulting from ‘social distancing’ are sending the economy into a tailspin. To fight on both fronts, governments are advancing rescue packages of never-seen-before dimensions. Every day, the tremendous number of factors in play reconfigure in a new way. These ‘from the trenches’ notes attempt to shed some light along a murky pathway.

  • There seem to be nearly unlimited ways in which society can separate into diverse factions (e.g., along lines tied to income, race, religion, sexual orientation, culinary taste, etc.). There’s one split, though, where the degree of difference exposed by the coronavirus crisis is being magnified to the ‘nth degree’. There are those who have acquired a degree of proficiency in using new high-tech tools, across a wide spectrum of applications, and those who have not. The age composition of the ‘not’ group is inordinately older. (I’m allowed to say that because I’m in the older demographic; they’re my ‘peeps’.)
  • Those who are comfortable with digital technology are staying on top of events, be they bad or good, as they unfold. When called upon by employers, they are managing to perform well in non-traditional ways (e.g. working entirely online), most often from their own homes. The counter position taken by those outside the cyber-space loop is that not everyone should need to be instantly accessible twenty-four hours, every day. And that perhaps there’s more joy in not being up on everything.
  • Indeed, there are news stories that one might be happier having never heard. There’s a giant pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, owned by Smithfield Foods (headquartered in Virginia) where 600 employees out of a total workforce of 3,700 have tested positive for the coronavirus. The plant has been closed for ‘deep’ cleaning and to set in place better health protocols for employees when they eventually return to work. The gamut of harmful impacts of the downtime extend beyond the plant through great swaths of hog producers and meat consumers. Smithfield, founded in America in 1936, is now wholly owned by WH Group, China.
  • When considering the whole issue of being current with technology in order to keep working in these tough times, I harken back to a lesson taught by Mother Nature. On Africa’s savannah plains, individual wildebeests travel and forage in huge herds, knowing that through their sheer number, they have some protection from predators. It works, sort of, unless you’re one of the slower wildebeests, or a wildebeest who doesn’t always like to run with the crowd. In my own case, I’m no longer sure I’m as fleet of foot as most wildebeests. I’m betting there’s a lot of other ‘wildebeests’ out there who are wondering the same thing about themselves right now.

Read the previous article here: The Economy Under COVID-19: Notes from the Trenches – April 22, 2020.


Alex Carrick is Chief Economist for ConstructConnect. He has delivered presentations throughout North America on the U.S., Canadian and world construction outlooks. Mr. Carrick has been with the company since 1985. Links to his numerous articles are featured on Twitter @ConstructConnx, which has 50,000 followers.

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