Seven months after an allegedly sweeping pandemic provoked the governor to shut down the Washington State economy for over a month, I don’t know anybody that is out of work. But there has to be some consequences to an almost total shutdown and heavily restricted re-opening. So we thought we’d take a look at some numbers to get an idea of the impact CV has had on the local economy.
The first takeaway from unemployment numbers is that the legendary “V-shaped recovery” is more than just a catchy soundbite. Before the lockdown measures, Washington State was unemployment was at an all-time low: January was 3.9%, with an even lower rate in February of 3.8. The rise began in March, with a reported 5.1%. This was followed by a dramatic increase up to 16.3% in April (mid-lockdown).
To put this number in perspective: the national record for unemployment rate was 24.9% during the Great Depression. April of this year was considerably less bad by comparison, though still more than six points higher than the worst month the nation saw in the wake of the ‘08 crisis. So pretty bad. The good news is the V-shaped recovery: July showed a return to somewhat sane numbers at 10.2% across the state. The caveat is that this is one oddly shaped V: the tail end is elongated, and so far nowhere near the same height as the front end.
Looking at business closures gives us some idea of whether we can expect the unemployment rate to return to its former glory soon. And the casualties of the shutdown and subsequent measures are piling up. KIRO7 reports that 112 businesses have closed across Seattle, and 1300 throughout the region (a vague term that presumably refers to the Puget Sound region).We’ve been relatively lucky here in Snohomish County: the county unemployment rate sits 1.6%below the state figure of 10.2%. Without having numbers of business closures specific to Snohomish County, we can say that the city of Snohomish has been relatively fortunate, too. Wendy Poischbeg from the Chamber of Commerce estimates four businesses have closed. I’ve only seen two myself, Alfy’s Pizza and Stewart’s Place.
But not everybody in the area works locally, and re-opening restrictions will slow the unemployment rate’s descent. The fact is, there are fewer jobs to return to than pre-Covid, and we aren’t out of the woods yet. Some businesses are nowhere near the numbers they were seeing before the restrictions, and might not pull through.
Keep the local economy strong
The most important thing we can do to see each other through this is to support local business. If you’re going to spend money, spend it with the people who are more likely to spend it within your community. This is common sense stuff that we’ve all heard, but right now its especially important to make it apriority. Be willing to pay a higher price and forego the convenience of huge retailers like Kroger, Amazon and Walmart.
The other half of this is making sure that our friends and neighbors understand the importance of supporting local business. The sale of a single item (or lack thereof) could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for a locally owned and operated store or restaurant fallen on hard times.
Also, if you’re concerned about the virus, local businesses can accommodate you. Having a delivery driver come to your porch is no safer than contact-free curbside pickup. During this crisis, shopping local whenever it is an option is one small thing we can do as a way to come together and keep the local economy intact.