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The Economy Under COVID-19: Notes From the Trenches - May 15, 2020

Alex Carrick
The Economy Under COVID-19: Notes From the Trenches - May 15, 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.

  • Apple and Google, through iOS and Android, operate the largest cell phone ‘ecosystems’ in North America. Those two firms are working jointly to further develop smart phone geo-locating technology to facilitate tracking the spread of COVID-19.
  • Michael Bloomberg, of Bloomberg News and former-Mayor-of-New-York fame, has also committed his valuable time and considerable financial resources to developing a contact tracing program. A philanthropic arm of his business empire will be working closely with Johns Hopkins University and Medical Center.
  • The retail software firm Shopify, which provides a platform for a million merchants to sell their wares, recently became Canada’s largest company by stock market valuation. A nearly 50% year-over-year gain in its share price helped it move past the enterprise that is often at the head of the pack on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Royal Bank (RBC). Shopify is only the third Canadian tech company to move up to number one. Nobody wants to jinx Shopify, but it’s somewhat concerning that the other two were Nortel and Blackberry. Neither had staying power. Both subsequently explored Mariana-like depths of stock market devaluations.  
  • A recent Harris Poll survey found that 30% of U.S. urbanites are considering moving to the suburbs or a rural area. Onsets of anxiety arising from high population density have opened eyes to other possibilities. Of course, this shift in sentiment may lose momentum when city-centric cultural events and dining possibilities eventually make a closer-to-normal comeback. Nevertheless, business managers are also suggesting significant changes in lifestyle arrangements may be in the wind. At the least, there’s much talk of ‘blended’ employment ‒i.e., a more varied mix of hours spent in the office versus working from home.
  • My wife and I are buying our groceries during early morning seniors’ hours at our local food mart. There’s a store employee at the entranceway to limit the number of people allowed in at once. I amuse myself by thinking that when I arrive at the door, I’ll be greeted with, “Who are you trying to kid? You don’t look old enough to be a senior.” What I’m more likely to get is, “Sir, would you like a walker to go with that shopping cart?” Donna says, if that happens, I should firmly refuse and splutter something about whipper snappers. But not to dilly dally. We have dwindling supplies of cranberry juice and bran cereal we need to replenish.

Read the previous article here: The Economy Under COVID-19: Notes from the Trenches – May 14, 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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