The COVID-19 pandemic continues to exact a major toll in terms of human health and wellbeing, as well as the economy. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have risen recently due to the delta variant, and the spike has caused substantial disruptions. Despite these concerns, there has been massive resistance by some policymakers and individuals around the country to basic protective measures, which is resulting in preventable losses to the economy through reduced employment and decreases in productivity.
On August 29, Hurricane Ida made landfall near New Orleans causing wind damage and flooding. Its remnants have caused significant issues across the eastern United States. The human suffering is of paramount importance and should be the primary concern, as well as enormous emotional losses. In addition, the storm will have a significant impact on the economy.
Texas has recently seen a sharp upswing in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. This spike has caused substantial disruptions and hardships to families across the state (including many children), compromised safety as schools seek to reopen and address the massive educational gap that has surfaced during the pandemic, and added further strain to an already fragile healthcare complex. Despite these concerns, there has been massive resistance by policymakers to sensible and basic protective measures, such as appropriate masking requirements and measures to encourage higher vaccination rates. In addition to these obvious consequences, this approach is also resulting in preventable losses to the economy through reduced employment and decreases in productivity. The Perryman Group (TPG) has recently quantified these adverse effects.
Laws which restrict voter access can have substantial negative economic consequences due to lost earnings and related reductions in consumer spending. In addition, irrespective of their stated purpose, controversial laws can also lead to reductions in travel and tourism and economic development.
The recent extreme winter weather is unprecedented in Texas. Records were shattered, and the demands on the power grid were exceptional. When brutal conditions took down about 40% of generation capacity (wind turbines and conventional plants alike), disaster struck. Most people had to deal with power outages (sometimes for days in freezing temperatures) and millions had no water (again for an extended period).
The United States recently reached a tragic milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic when the number of lives lost reached 500,000. The suffering and hardships imposed by these losses are incalculable and the primary concern, with few Americans not personally affected in some way
The high human cost and loss of life due to COVID-19 is tragic and staggering. Few people have remained untouched by the disease in one way or another, with over 20 million US cases. As of the end of 2020, the coronavirus had contributed to the death of nearly 345,000 people in the United States. While the suffering and hardships imposed by these losses are incalculable and the primary concern, the economic consequences cannot be ignored.
From an economic perspective, it is rare that Presidents move the needle much on economic growth. Historically, the economy has fared moderately better in Democratic administrations, but the difference is small and not necessarily caused by the President. In terms of policy, the ability to implement major initiatives will be highly dependent on the outcome of the two senate races in Georgia.
The most recent employment data indicates that the pace of hiring in Texas has slowed. In September, 40,700 net new jobs were added, compared to 111,900 in August. Moreover, the unemployment rate rose and is now higher than the national level. While this slowing is not good news, it was not unexpected.
Category 4 Hurricane Laura made landfall just after midnight on August 27, 2020 in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, about 35 miles east of the Texas border. While the damage was significant, the economic costs could have been far worse. The Perryman Group estimates that if the storm had made landfall as a direct hit on one of the nearby refining and petrochemical areas (such as Beaumont), the economic losses could have been 8 to 10 times as large as preliminary damage estimates have indicated.