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The Economy under COVID-19: Notes from my New Hiding Place - Within the Herd (June 17, 2020)

Alex Carrick
The Economy under COVID-19: Notes from my New Hiding Place - Within the Herd (June 17, 2020)

Since we’re all cautiously emerging from sanctuary, the former title of my articles, written while I was housebound – Notes from the Trenches, – no longer applies. Therefore, I’ve chosen a new heading, as you will observe above. It still captures a certain wariness on my part.

Hand Dryers and Elvis Presley

  • As compiled by ConstructConnect, the dollar volumes of construction ‘starts’ year to date in Canada so far this year, versus their levels in January-May 2019, have been as follows: ‘grand total’, -33%; residential, -34%; nonresidential building, -41%; and heavy engineering/civil, -23%. Provincially, the steepest declines have occurred in Quebec (where the coronavirus has struck hardest), -54%, and Alberta (where the energy sector has been under siege, although oil prices have now recovered above $30 USD per barrel), -44%. The comparable year-to-date U.S. starts statistics, which are published in the Industry Snapshot, have been: ‘grand total’, -20%; residential, -11%; nonresidential building, -33%; and heavy engineering/civil, -7%.  
  • With re-openings underway, workers returning to some locations are being met with: (1) temperature screenings; (2) hand sanitizer stations at entranceways and throughout departments; (3) plexiglass partitions at reception desks; and (4) requests that they sign a liability waiver. The legal community is saying that litigation against a company if one (or several) of its employees contract the coronavirus won’t become as common as one might suppose. It will be too hard to prove where an individual picked up the disease. It could have been while walking down the street; while shopping in a grocery store; etc.   
  • Physical alterations in the workplace, beyond the setting up of sensor controls to eliminate the touching of taps, handles and buttons, might include the removal of hot air hand dryers in washrooms (they blow germs too far and wide) and the installation of angled mirrors high up at hallway ‘intersections’ (so individuals won’t accidentally run into each other). Who hasn’t crashed into somebody at the office and had to say ‘sorry’ at a gap of about six inches, never mind the six feet required by ‘social distancing’?
  • I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Ed Sullivan is making a comeback. Universal Music Enterprises (UMe), a division of Vivendi, has licensed the rights to ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’, which appeared on CBS Sunday evenings from 1948 through 1971. High definition and full-length episodes are about to be released, in staggered batches, on the YouTube channel. Ed was especially famous for saying, “Tonight we have a wonderful shoe!” –  with special emphasis on the shoe part. And he was often, but not always, right.
  • All the hottest acts of the day were guests on Ed’s ‘Shoe’. The Supremes appeared 16 times; the Beatles chose it for their North American debut; Elvis Presley was filmed from the waist up to spare delicate eyes from the sight of his notorious pelvic gyrations. Forget the pandemic for a minute. What an incredible time we’re living in, when the best of the past can be resurrected with such ease.

Read the previous article here: The Economy under COVID-19: Notes from my New Hiding Place – Within the Herd (June 12, 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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