COVID-19

For U.S. consumers, COVID-19 is not a big concern … yet

Mitchell Hartman Feb 24, 2020
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Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

For U.S. consumers, COVID-19 is not a big concern … yet

Mitchell Hartman Feb 24, 2020
Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Financial markets are falling around the world from escalating fears of COVID-19, the coronavirus disease — both the fact of its increasingly wide and rapid spread in Asia, Europe and the Middle East and the widening economic impact on global supply chains, travel, and consumption. 

We haven’t seen much impact yet on U.S. consumer sentiment, though we’ll get new numbers from the Conference Board on consumer confidence Tuesday.

So far, when research outfits like the Conference Board and University of Michigan have asked consumers how they’re feeling about the economy, COVID-19 hasn’t seemed to be worrying them enough to dampen their optimism about the future or crimp their willingness to spend (though the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 1,000-point plunge Monday could change that outlook).

At a transit station not far from downtown Portland, Oregon, Lincoln Barron Holmes was waiting for his bus. He works as a costumer for TV shows. I asked if he’s thinking about the outbreak.

“Honestly, I am not worried about it in like a deep, visceral way,” he said, adding that the epidemic is on his mind but doesn’t impact what he does with his time or money.

“It doesn’t touch my day-to-day life that much,” Barron Holmes said. “I’m not planning international travel.”

So far, U.S. consumers are hearing about global supply chain disruptions and now the stock market.

Santa Clara University finance professor Meir Statman thinks at some point, it’s likely clusters of COVID-19 cases will show up in major U.S. cities.

“The psychological impact if it gets close to us is likely to be more threatening, where you are afraid to come close to people, to go to the movie theater or a stadium,” Statman said.

And Barron Holmes was thinking about it at a Portland Trail Blazers basketball game last night.

“It crossed my mind while I was there, just because I was in a big group of people,” he said.

Steve Schroeder is starting to worry about his personal economy. He’s visiting from Bloomington, Indiana, where he runs a vegan ice cream business.

“My biggest product is coconut milk, unfortunately, and a lot of the places where coconut milk comes from — I really hope we can figure this out and get a vaccine soon,” Schroeder said. “There’s too many deaths, and it’s scary.”

Schroeder’s already concerned about his ice cream sales for summer.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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