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.
May and June jobs reports for Texas and the state's largest metropolitan areas were encouraging and reflect the fact that as businesses began to reopen, what was essentially a sound economy before the pandemic responded relatively quickly. Nonetheless, employment remains well below pre-COVID-19 levels. The Perryman Group's latest forecast calls for significant year-over-year losses for 2020, but notable recovery next year. If additional interruptions are required as a result of the recent surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in Texas, the annual declines will escalate.
The most recent US jobs reports indicate significant gains and decreasing unemployment, but the total increase over the past two months is far below losses during March and April. Moreover, the recent increase in COVID-19 infections may cause the recovery to slow. The situation remains challenging and fluid, and the recovery will likely be bumpy.
The US Supreme Court recently ruled to preserve DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA allows individuals who came to the US as children to remain under certain conditions and was implemented in 2012. Since that time, about 800,000 people have received protection under the act, which requires that recipients either be in school or be employed. Although the decision does not permanently secure the program, it provides critical near-term security to the affected group.
Increasing local spending can lead to significant benefits in the Permian Basin Region including additional retail sales and jobs, as well as tax receipts to local entities. The Perryman Group estimated the economic benefits if people in the Region increased spending at local retail stores, restaurants, and personal services establishments to levels consistent with patterns in other areas. These amounts are fully adjusted to reflect goods and services that are available in the Permian Basin and income levels of area residents.