Visits to “Places of Commerce” Still in Collapse Mode. Have Some of these Massive Shifts Become Permanent?

People and businesses have changed how they do things. And it shows up in the GPS data.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

One of the high-frequency data sets that came out of the Pandemic, and that we have been following to track the progress of the US economy, is an index by the American Enterprise Institute that tracks, based on cellphone GPS data, the number of people visiting “places of commerce” in the current week compared to the number of visits in the pre-Pandemic week ended January 15, 2020.

These “places of commerce” include offices, stores, malls, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, airports, hospitals, other places of commerce and other points of interest in the 40 largest metro areas. The “Foot Traffic Index” measures how many people arrived at these locations, regardless of how they got there – by car, on foot, or by whatever other means.

What is stunning is the lack of recovery since June, and the deterioration in recent months to where the indexes of the 40 metros have dropped into a range that is between 71% and 38% of their foot traffic in January 2020 – the range between the two parallel red lines – according to the AEI’s index for the week through February 7, 2021 (click on the chart to enlarge it):

The top bold blue line is Kansas City (at 71% of January 2020 foot traffic). The bottom bold green line is San Jose (40%) and the thin gray dropping below San Jose is New York (38% of January 2020 foot traffic).

The bold lines in between Kansas City and San Jose represent Nashville (66%), Atlanta (60%), Detroit (54%), San Diego (50%), and Los Angeles (45%). Source: AEI Housing Center and Safegraph.com

Some of the obvious reasons.

Tourism: In San Francisco (41%), international tourism has collapsed, and domestic tourism is down too, many hotels remain closed, and others are nearly empty.  New York City (at 38% of January 2020 foot traffic), Las Vegas (at 48%), Miami (at 51%) and some other cities with a big tourism industry are also impacted by the collapse of international tourism.

Work from home, work from anywhere: San Francisco and Silicon Valley, including San Jose, have become bastions of work from home, and more broadly, work from anywhere. People are working, but they’re not going to the office to do so. Many of those work-from-anywhere people have left. San Francisco’s Financial District remains dead. Many other central business districts look similar.

Shopping at malls is in a bad downward spiral. Ecommerce has taken over. Fewer people go to the malls.

Entertainment outside the home: In many places, movie theaters are closed, others nearly empty. Restaurants are restricted, bars are closed or have restricted capacity. Sports venues are closed to the public or have limited capacity. And so on. People have set up their homes to get more of their entertainment at home.

But are there permanent shifts in foot traffic? The future “new normal?”

Unlike foot traffic, the economy isn’t down by 30% or 40% or 50%. GDP was down 2.5% in Q4 compared to a year ago.

We already know that the economy has shifted in dramatic ways. Some parts of the economy, such as ecommerce and anything to do with the internet, such as streaming, and all the sectors that make it happen, including some aspects of tech and trucking, have boomed. The brick-and-mortar elements of ecommerce, such as fulfillment centers, have been on a hiring spree, as have delivery companies. And there are side effects, such as manufacturing delivery vans has become a priority. There are many more shifts like that.

Clearly, many people are eager to go out again and socialize and have someone serve them their food with a smile and go on vacation and hang out in crowded bars and go to ball games. And those activities will take off again once the Pandemic settles down. International and domestic mass-tourism will pick up again. Those types of activities will eventually return to some sort of normal level even if it takes a while.

But the shifts also appear to have caused permanent changes in the way people shop, with malls and department stores sinking even faster than before; and in the way people consume movies, with streaming now being pushed by the studios themselves even for new releases; and where people do their office jobs.

Where office jobs get done may be the biggest permanent change. For many employers, there is no work from home, including construction, manufacturing, warehousing, transportation, barbers, hair salons, restaurants, and a million other operations. But where office work gets done will never be the same again – especially with big companies that have the technology and resources to handle it.

Some office workers will eventually return to the office full time, but many others will be in a hybrid operation, working in the office part of the time, and working at home the rest of the time. Others are permanently working from anywhere. A slew of big companies have already revealed their permanent hybrid models, and sketched out their ideas about the future layouts of the office.

There are other activities that will look different post-Pandemic, including business trips. While some business trips will resume, others will be replaced by video conferencing, which has now proven itself as an efficient and manageable alternative for many types of meetings, and companies and people have gotten used to it over the past year. This reduces foot traffic to airports, hotels, restaurants, and the like.

So when I look at the chart above, what I see post-Pandemic after the economy has fully recovered is a level of foot traffic that is lower than it was in January 2020, because people shop less at brick-and-mortar stores, go to the office less often, go on business trips less often, go to movies less often, and do other things less often, even as other businesses, such as restaurants, bars, barber shops, nail and hair salons, etc. return to some sort of normal.

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  188 comments for “Visits to “Places of Commerce” Still in Collapse Mode. Have Some of these Massive Shifts Become Permanent?

  1. Thomas Wolfe says:

    Gonna coin it here, “Zoom Pink Slip”

    Corporations already know that a remote worker in Mumbai is cheaper than the one who relocated to Akron. When foot traffic comes back to SJ and SF it’ll be from the next wave of newly arriving Asians and Indians to send the current Fed backstopped property bubble into the stratosphere. The winners there will be homeowners who HODL’ed in metro areas.

    Wolf,

    After months of enhanced unemployment and stimulus checks without any taxes held back, where are Americans gonna come up with the dough on April 15th? Is Biden gonna push back Tax Day to June again…can they print up enough funny money to stave off the Tax Man…or will we see IRS forbearance?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Unemployment benefits are taxable income. But stimulus checks are not taxable income. Many people that received unemployment benefits make so little money that federal income taxes are not an issue. But for higher-paid laid-off workers, unemployment benefits (which replace regular income) produce a tax liability, and some of them are going to scramble when they do their taxes.

      • RightNYer says:

        Yes, but for the person who was previously making $500/week ($26k a year) but made an extra $14k in enhanced unemployment, he likely will see some tax liability where he wouldn’t before.

        It’s really ridiculous that the extra $600 didn’t come with required withholding. So many people who don’t know any better will get screwed.

        • urblintz says:

          and if that person had an ACA health care subsidy based on $26,000/yr income won’t they be liable for paying back a portion of the subsidy due to significantly higher income?

        • Joe Saba says:

          if they earn to much then they won’t qualify for EIC
          oops
          unemployment payments do NOT COUNT towards ‘earned’ income
          have a tenant who annually soaks in $8k via EIC is maybe not gonna see much

        • Joe Saba says:

          w-2 making $30k = $4,500 for SSI/FICA/FUTA
          then you get to pay again for state and federal

        • Javert Chip says:

          Joe Saba

          Where are you getting your tax advice? Of the 3 taxes you listed, $30,000 W2 income pays $1,860 (not $4,500)

          oFUTA is an employer paid unemployment insurance (Not paid out of W2 income by employee)

          oSSI is a tax on Social Security received by an individual and s not W2 income

          FICA is 6.2% of W2 income (up to certain limits) and would be about $1,860

        • Joe Saba says:

          so sorry javert
          didn’t realize you work for store
          self employed pay 15.3%
          see 1/2 SSI is paid for by corporation
          you ”’pay for your 1/2”’
          double up and then speak please
          someone still has to pay entire balance

          think Robert Kiyosaka
          we call w-2 BLOOD SUCKERS – put out your arm and get drained

      • Dan Romig says:

        OK, once a year I set up my appointment with my accountant @ tax time and once a year Wolf lets me get on a soapbox.

        Modified Flat Tax. A living wage, say $2,500 per month, has no federal income tax liability. Every dollar of income after that regardless of wages, carried interest, dividends or capital gains is taxed at 20% across the board – equally. End of story.

        ‘Til next year.

        • Petunia says:

          Sorry, but someone making 30K paying 6K in taxes is too much, unless it also includes tax for SS and medicare for all.

        • Dan Romig says:

          The person making thirty thousand has zero Federal tax liability.

        • VintageVNvet says:

          Going to agree with Dan on this one Petunia,
          An actual federal flat tax of the very most simple kind, with NO deductions other than that first $2500 per month/$30K per year, makes tons and tons more sense than anything else these days, EXCEPT for one thing: all the folks who would lose their jobs as tax avoidance professionals right down to basic ”bookkeeping people.”
          Don’t know about recently, but many years ago when I thought I might study USA tax law, the book was at least 6,000 pages, with tons of loops and holes and many apparent contradictions.
          And yes, that flat tax must include every federal tax: Income, SS, Medicare, any and all federal taxes; and, sure, let the states and municipalities add A sales tax or A property tax if their voters will let them, but no taxes without at least majority vote of those subject to that tax.

        • Pete Koziar says:

          Taxes are no longer used to fund the government – money printing is. The federal deficit for 2020 was $3.1 trillion, and the tax revenue is estimated to be $3.71 trillion, which I’ll believe when I see it, given the hit the economy took.

          The purpose of taxes is now to encourage or discourage activities that the government desires or wishes to restrict.

        • MCH says:

          The problem you will encounter on this is the cost of living. $30K in flyover country, might just be fine. But on many of the coastal states, it’ll mean increased poverty.

          The issues are too complex to discuss here, but is an obvious mix of governmental thinking as well as market forces. A flat tax would be decried all along the coasts (and at many major cities) as unfair. It’s a good idea may be 30 years ago when gaps between rich and poor wasn’t so bad, and the cost of living around the country hadn’t gotten so out of control, today, anyone proposing that would be instantly labeled by the media and most of the left as the most regressive and repressive idea of all.

        • Petunia says:

          Dan,

          My son was making 30K a few years ago and he did not have a zero tax liability. Everything after the first 12k was taxed at 10%, then there was the SS taxes on the full 30K too.

        • RightNYer says:

          Petunia, Dan is talking about under his proposed system, not as it currently is.

        • Happy1 says:

          Amen

        • Javert Chip says:

          Tax legislation is the #1 topic driving political contributions.

          Why would you think politicians will let go of this honey pot?

      • NedKelly says:

        “Many people that received unemployment benefits make so little money that federal income taxes are not an issue.”
        Think they’ll notice that Trump doubled the standard deduction from $6,500 to $12,000 for individuals and from $13,000 to $24,000 for married filers?

        “As for middle- and lower-wage earners, the number of tax returns claiming the standard deduction increased in 2018 by 29 percent to 134 million. Because the TCJA increased this deduction, the amount those taxpayers deducted increased $1.4 billion or 156 percent from $900 million to $2.3 billion.”

        Biden promises to reduce these “tax cuts for the rich.”

        Andy Puzder
        November 1, 2020

        What have the Democrats done for them recently?
        Prediction, the Mid-terms are going to be a slaughter house for the Democrats as the promises yet to be met are accounted for by voters.

        • K says:

          I do not think that Biden’s reductions in the tax cuts will be made to the lower-earning, two-thirds of Americans but mainly to the tax laws applicable to higher earners who were the ones mostly benefitted after an initial, deceptive reduction for a year or so for the rest of Americans. See Forbes Magazine’s “Trump Tax Cuts Helped Billionaires Pay Less Taxes Than The Working Class In 2018.”

          Quote: “The richest 1 percent received 9.3 percent of the total tax cuts, the top 5 percent got 26.5 percent, the top quintile received 52.2 percent and the bottom quintile got 3.3 percent.” Quote from Forbes Magazine’s “Did The Rich Get All Of Trump’s Tax Cuts?” Remember that for the richest, millionaires, most or many do not have to pay taxes at all on foreign income (if it is not brought back to the USA) or on capital gains (by just not selling their shares and living on loans or off their companies, e.g., getting everything from their own companies such as company-owned housing, getting company food at the executive dining room of their companies, company travel in company jets, company-hired “executive assistants” whose jobs involve more than any legitimate secretary would do, etc.)

          Really paying taxes is optional for them: if they do not have income or dividends, etc., paid to them, they do not have to pay taxes. See “Apple Successfully Avoids $50 Billion in American Taxes” at gizmodo. Admittedly, most do not go to that extreme for the sake of appearances.

          I could teach a course on how you could avoid having to pay any country’s taxes 99% of the time just by putting your assets in the right foreign country, in a series of companies, using trusts, and following certain strategies, which the ultra-rich follow all their lives. Growing their wealth without having to pay any portion of it in taxes is how they stay rich. I cannot say how I know, but these successful strategies must be nearly a century old or older and are commonly known now, except among the sheeple.

        • NBay says:

          A very good post K.

          I’d just love to know the actual net worths of all these cherry picking people who think long and hard about what is best for a person making $12.50/hr, or less, or homeless, and with zero net worth, or negative.

          I’d say they all basically want NO CHANGES and to just continue filling up the jails and homeless encampments like we are presently doing, as long as it doesn’t affect them.

          Why they give the ultra wealthy (0.1% and way up) a free pass is totally beyond me. I met many of these types years ago (mostly dead now), but sister still keeps in contact with some of their offspring…(gold digger and solid Reagan lover)…….I can’t/couldn’t stand any of them….very sick excuses for human beings, although except for one scotch fueled incident I just kept my thoughts to myself.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          …a lyric from the late, great Steve Goodman: “…and it ain’t too hard to get along with somebody else’s troubles, and they don’t make you lose any sleep at night…”.

          may we all find a better day.

    • DeerInHeadlights says:

      Zoom pink slips are a regular in the tech industry and have been for a long time. The pandemic is going to increase the off-shoring no doubt, of mostly lower-level roles.

      And if it’s going to be the lower rungs, then I don’t see how this increases foot traffic in SJ and SF.

      Hint: Indians are Asians too.

      • I believe the process of hiring less than fully qualified workers is to put their work under review by a central editor. They do this with computer code as well? I know this is how ER MDs work. They gather your symptoms tests and upload them to a live diagnostician. One reason a day in the ER lasts forever.

        • Harrold says:

          No, releasing sloppy and broken code to meet deadlines is how it works today.

          Writing quality code if often thought to be a waste of time.

          You release the quality you *need*.

          Sometimes this is badly misjudged as seen in the release of Cyberpunk 2077 several months ago.

        • sunny129 says:

          ‘put their work under review’

          As long that WORK has produced ‘enough’ to increase their bottomline, quality and efficiency is secondary and academic, in the real world.

        • sunny129 says:

          ‘They gather your symptoms tests and upload them to a live diagnostician’

          It looks so simple right but in reality it is NOT!

          As diagnostic radiologist (3 board certification) with nearly 40 yrs of experience, having worked in University set up, VA and private practices, it is far from ideal. If you accept ‘garbage in & garbage out’ then it is ok!

          Why?

          B/c it takes TIME, EFFORT, PATIENCE and proper RESOURCES to practice good Medicine. NOT possible under Corporate controlled Medicine! I have also worked as ER MD prior to becoming radiologist.

          Besides history(past personal & family history) recording of SIGNS & Symptoms, one has to focus on the needed tests & imaging, in further narrowing the diagnosis.
          There are array of diagnostic tools – x-rays, CT, MRI, Ultrasound, Nuclear Medicine++Which ones and which combination squeezes out pertinent information to select thrapy? One has to have access to previous (reports & Images)studies of all above modalities, mentioned. Plus various consultants’ report on the patient ( more for elderly). then you might be honing on the ‘working’ diagnosis before the treatment. Blood tests are another chapter. Putting ALL the data to extract the information is NOT that easy. Cannot be done in 24 hrs either!

          No one is practicing ( or able to) ‘Evidence’ based practiced, Medicine any more!
          Can go on but suffice to say one’s perception is NOT the reality’ especially in the field of Medicine. Under Corporate controlled Medicine it has deteriorated. Read ‘Medical Economics’ journals online!
          (retired MD)

      • Petunia says:

        All the offshoring to Asia, and I include visa holders in the US, is nothing more than a gigantic wealth transfer to the offshore and visa holder’s countries. Most of the money earned goes out of the country, while we lose jobs and GDP.

        All these tech companies are impoverishing us one visa at a time. And eventually all their intellectual property will be gone as well.

        • A says:

          I can put your mind at ease here. Offshoring software development for anything but the most low-level stuff like QA or unimportant crank-turning has generally failed.

          One of the reasons it fails is that most of the good software engineers get an h1b and come to the USA. H1b immigrants pay US taxes and the money stays in the US economy.

          Everyone from China to India to the EU is trying to figure out how to stop America from stealing their talent with the H1B.

          China, in particular, wants to make sure all it’s best and brightest stay in China and work for their companies, pay their taxes, and contribute to their communist economy.

        • Mike G says:

          Offshoring software development for anything but the most low-level stuff like QA or unimportant crank-turning has generally failed.

          This. It was an MBA’s pipe dream relying on ignorance that they could forklift software development offshore at Indian wages with no issues. But by the time their employer worked it out they’d be long gone with a fat bonus for the illusory “cost savings”. Management is easy when you’re a sociopath who doesn’t give a crap about things actually being functional.

        • Re: A) Not sure if China first policy is nationalism or the cultural inbred antipathy towards western exploitation, which is communist working class boilerplate. The simple comparisons breakdown; China’s avuncular interest in Vietnam, they did fight a war after the US was gone. Their hard line in Hong Kong is politically oppressive, and China has an economy built in the first instance on prison labor. Now they are exploiting the Uighurs, however there is no more prison labor in China, or maybe not as much as in the US? Bejing’s long term goals are to make themselves autonmous and economically viable. While China may not hand out H1 work visas, to fend off the US brain drain. They have propped up our university system sending students flush with cash. One reason so many US students need a mountain of debt to get through. The Chinese are willing to inflict short term pain for long term gain, unlike the US economic wizards. 46 calls it a “competition”, which was a political jab made at the ignorant and unviable working class in this country, who have nothing better to do than plot ways overthrow the government. A truly reactionary government response would have considered the Chinese position before setting trade policy.

  2. WES says:

    Well the new normal sure sounds a lot like growing old!

    As you age, you have less energy for foot traffic.

    The new normal sure rhymes with the not so golden years.

    • Anthony A. says:

      Yeah, not much has changed in assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

    • Tankster says:

      Well said. I am a Boomer smack dab in the middle, born 1956. Really, why do I have to go anywhere, especially here in Florida where we are one big Petri dish? Luckily I can do most work virtually and still work more than 49 hours a week. What attraction does retail shopping have for me? This was going to happen anyway on a demographic basis, the grossly mismanaged pandemic response accelerated it by 5-8 years….

    • NedKelley says:

      One thing not accounted for by these studies:

      Older people who have most of the money often do not have smart phones, or have flip phones, therefore using them for tracking is a useful measure of the young middlin’ folks and Hispanic busboy demographic who all have smartphones instead of a landline.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        NedKelley,

        “Older people who have most of the money often do not have smart phones…”

        Everyone of the “older people” I know relies on their smartphones to communicate with their kids and grandkids and great-grandkids, and they do a lot of their reading on smartphones. Some don’t have a laptop but rely on their smartphone for 100% of their online activity, such as making reservations, buying tickets, buying on Amazon, etc. Now these people are less than 100 years old, but still.

        Lots of misconceptions out there about “older people.”

      • Javert Chip says:

        Speaking as an “older person”, I just heard a loud pop as NedKelly pulled his head out of…well, you know.

        • Nelly says:

          Pew Research “The vast majority of Americans – 96% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 81%”
          Richest catagory
          $75,000+
          Any cell100%
          Smartphone 95%
          non-smart cell 5%

          5% of the wealthy do not have a smart phone.
          19% of Americans have not.
          Meaning they are not being tracked?

        • VintageVNVet says:

          Good one jc,,, and as an even (likely) older person, I agree…
          Not on face hook or any other of the data gathering similar sites,,, I can and do hope that younger folks/family will get the ”heck” out of those sites asap.
          Other than that hope, I really and truly hope that many many other websites will at least copy the WolfStreet model of moderation; otherwise, I will continue to avoid them, and just hope that many other sites presenting worthy news will or might continue in spite of their very odious commenting.
          Thanks again to Wolf and the Wolfstreet commentariat.

  3. DeerInHeadlights says:

    Office work is not going back to office until there’s effective *treatment* for the virus. Vaccine is not treatment. Might take a decade or so, who knows. I don’t think there’s any “hybrid” mode for office work. One infection or outbreak and everyone goes back home. Happens a few more times and everyone just goes back to remote for good. I just don’t see “hybrid” mode working out.

    Places of commerce though can come back to life if lockdowns end. Most shopping/retail is probably finished for good.

    • DeerInHeadlights says:

      Oops, my bad. How could I not see that this is an attempt by the globalist Davos elite to destroy fertility rates and control our brains through the nanobots in the vaccines.

      /sarcasm

      • Xavier Caveat says:

        I knew a fellow in the Peace Corps in India in the 60’s, and they went to this village and showed the men how to use condoms by sticking them on the end of a broomstick, and they came back a few years later and lots of new babies, and when they asked the village men why this happened, they all showed their broomsticks festooned in latex, ha!

    • SpencerG says:

      The flu virus has never stopped office work… and that is with relatively few people getting the vaccination. Pretty much 100% of the nation will get this vaccine.

      Moreover, how hard is it to separate desks by 6 feet? Perhaps even put up physical barriers between them. There will be plenty of excess space in most offices.

      Lastly, tell people who feel sick to stay home. They can work from there now.

      PS: I do agree that the hybrid mode won’t work out… but for different reasons than you.

      • Peacefuldaizy says:

        No way will almost 100% of Americans get the vaccination.

        • josap says:

          When the time comes that there is more vaccine available than people who want a shot – if you want to travel or get most any job, getting vaccinated will be required.

          Once the vaccines are approved for kids the shots will probably be required to go to school.

      • Kansas Sunflower says:

        When you are crammed into “team” rooms that have desks crammed right next to each other there is not the room to move them apart unless the seating capacity is reduced to 1/3 of what it was before.

      • Harrold says:

        Your solution only applies to office jobs.

        The guy working at Chipoltes doesn’t get sick leave, so of course he’s coming to work when he has a non-hospitalized case of covid.

      • DeerInHeadlights says:

        It’s a BIG assumption that 100% of the nation will be vaccinated. At a minimum, a third of Americans are skeptical about the vaccines. I don’t know what’s going to happen but I doubt it’ll be anywhere close to 100%. What’s the vaccination rate for the flu every year?

    • MCH says:

      Office work is done unless you actually need corporate facilities, think labs, hardware, manufacturing, that sort of stuff.

      For better or worse, the office as we know it is dead. C19 just happens to be a good excuse for outsourcing whenever possible. In a world where everyone is “special,” it really means no one is special. Except the CEO, and the CFO, and yes, even the latter can be replaced from some guy in India.

  4. Nacho Libre says:

    Kansas City! You are doing great Dorothy. Rest of us will catch up soon.

  5. WES says:

    Keeping your vitamin D levels up is helpful but the government won’t tell you that.

    • Dave says:

      and Vitamin C…….. It enhances white blood cell production and mobility as well as aiding its microbial killing capacity.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        All this stuff is made in China and India. After the contamination scandals that have erupted on pharmaceutical products from those sources, I’m not sure I’d want to take a large daily dose of anything. But go ahead if it makes you happy. The supplements industry, which is promoting this stuff like crazy, needs your support.

        But do not abuse my site to promote supplements and pharma products. The comment section here gets this friggin crap all the time, sometimes dozens of them a day — sexual dysfunction drugs seem to be particularly hot these days. I allow none of them to see the light of the day.

      • California Bob says:

        re: ” The supplements industry, which is promoting this stuff like crazy, needs your support.”

        Anyone else catch the send-up of Prevagen on ‘Doonesbury’ Sunday? It’s almost like Gary Trudeau is daring the purveyors to sue him, so as to increase visibility of this scam.

        If anyone deserves the Medal of Freedom, it’s Gary Trudeau; he’s helped keep me (mostly) sane for decades.

      • California Bob says:

        re: “All this stuff is made in China and India.”

        … and ends up in toilets, then sewage systems, then rivers, lakes and the oceans.

    • Swamp Creature says:

      Dr Fauci never mentions that (Vit D) . Wat kind of Dr is that??

    • Mike says:

      Well, some of your protocol based on “actual science” is really based on poorly substantiated extrapolations based on weakly designed studies (as are most “supplements”, outside of acute deficiencies). Most of this “boosting” your immune system stuff is in the realm of pseudoscience / speculation. There will be lots of studies claiming a supplement “may” do this or that in their discussion sections/abstracts while concluding more studies are needed. The reality is, the vast majority of medical interventions that have a plausible mechanism fail to pan out in practice.

      E.g. vitamin D https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32605780/

      A Recent RCT study found no benefit for people when administered after their diagnosis: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2776305

  6. Nacho Libre says:

    Science has become a cult, science has become a religion.

    Whole premise of science is to question everything and get to the truth, not to “shut up and obey”.

    Florida and California restriction levels and hospitalization numbers should make everyone question the assumptions.

    • David Hall says:

      Even without government restrictions older people self quarantine. Florida unemployment is high. People do not want COVID related hospital bills. The mall was the site of store closures before the pandemic. Airbnb is taking customers away from hotels. The main road is saturated with fast food restaurants and convenience stores that go in and out of business.

      • Mikey says:

        Pretty rare for fast food places to go out of business. I have seen one Burger King get closed near me but probably they are just going to sell it to a new franchisee.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Nacho Libre and Dano,

      Covid deaths per 100,000 population:

      Texas: 143
      Florida: 134
      California: 119

      So how many lives is a state governor going to sacrifice, and for what purpose? That’s the calculus here.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Wolf,
        It would be helpful if possible to give some ”pre pandemic” health conditions data even if just with regards to those three states, but many or all if easily available.
        Certainly we can predict that CA has a ”generally” more healthy population than TX or FL for various reasons, so just those three might be indicative.
        And then compare those data with the various covid data for the same states, especially death rate per capita.
        IMHO, there will be direct correlations; say, for instance, between prevalence of diabetes/obesity/high BP/etc., and mortality.
        Based on what we were told early on, I have been somewhat surprised to see several 90+ year old friends and family doing well in spite of that age, and also larger sample of same in 70s and 80s.
        Appears possible that the better the ”life maintenance in spite of poor/marginal health” areas, including USA states as well as other nations have more deaths per capita because more folks had/have been kept alive longer.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          VintageVNvet,

          African Americans and Latinos, along with poor people in general, are disproportionately represented in the number of Covid deaths. So people say Covid is no big deal because it hits those population the hardest and they don’t count. Which is a heinous way of thinking. And it’s the subtext of many of these discussions and of the decisions that governors have made.

          If you get helicoptered to Walter Reed and get the best medical care in the world, your chances of surviving are far better than those of a poor schmuck working in the low-end services industry with shitty or no healthcare, and lots of contact with the unmasked public. And these poor schmucks bring the infections to their multi-generation home. So there you go.

      • Russell says:

        Wolf – Go to World Meter. Those numbers are correct, but the states rank 24, 27 and 33 respectfully out of 50, not bad comparatively.

        Number 1 and 2 – NJ and NY are 253 and 237, approximately double.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          NJ and NY were hit before anyone knew what was going on. Dead bodies suddenly started to show up. The virus came to them via Italy. And that was totally unexpected. There was no lockdown or anything when that started. No one even paid any attention, until someone figured out that something big was going on, by which time it was too late.

          At the peak of the death rate, when they actually started counting, in early April, daily deaths were around 1,000 per day. During the second wave, the peak in January was around 200/day.

      • R Hughes says:

        Also from CDC data thru Feb 9th.
        Confirmed cases as % of state population.
        Calif 8.49, Fl 8.18, TX 8.68
        So virtually identical.

        Can’t comment on Texas but west coast of Florida running 6.5 – 7.5, east coast 8.5 – 9.9. Calif south la 11.3, riverside 10.8 versus Santa Clara 5.5

        So wide variations by county in fl and Calif. For those who want to dig data avail down to county level for USA.

      • R Hughes says:

        For those interested in numbers, high and low for states

        Death rate HA .03, VER .03, ND .191, SD .203

        Case rate HA 1.92, VER 2.1, SD 12.36, ND 12.8

      • Harrold says:

        Texas Gov Abbott and his wife received the first vaccines given in Texas back in December.

        With covid taken care of, Gov Abbott has now turned his attention to the major problems facing the state, namely Mark Cuban *no* longer playing the national anthem prior to basketball games.

      • NedKelley says:

        VintagenVelvet,

        And demographics within states too:
        e.g. Black population suffers higher Covid mortality rate than whites. However, menthol cigarettes, Churches fried chicken, heavy drinking and physical violence that puts one in an infected hospital, or ends up the cause of death, with a meaningless, yet counted, accompanying positive Covid test on admission or even on the cadaver, as in San Francisco, would account for a lot of the demographic discrepancies.

  7. Scott says:

    Great article. It would be interesting to see the areas that emerge outside of the top 40 which rates are well above 100% of where they were in January of 2020 due to people migrating.

  8. Sam says:

    Cyclical RE trends de-acceleration as PDX
    residential/comm bldg permits decreased 43% in ’20 [Bendbulletin.com]
    PDX UHaul center has 30 moving truck arriving , and orders for 100 trucks to leave the state.
    PDX laying off bldg inspectors & code enforcement staff.
    Houses going under contract before walk [virtual] through’s commence. Wild times ahead…
    Happy President’s Day…….

  9. Kent says:

    Florida did shut down early and crash its economy. The governor just opened up much quicker than others. But it is not wide open. Nursing homes are still locked down. Most businesses have social distancing and masking rules.

    The story of failure in the US is don’t lock down unless you intend to get rid of the virus, like New Zealand or Vietnam. The US did just enough lock down to kill the economy, but not enough to prevent the spread. Just stupid.

    • RightNYer says:

      Yes. You either need to have a totalitarian style lockdown where no one can leave the house for two weeks, or just not bother with anything beyond mask requirements and reduced capacity indoors. And if you choose the former, you really need to lock your borders too, like other countries have done.

      But telling Walmart that they can stay open while Bed Bath & Beyond has to close is the height of stupid. It was obvious that with restrictions like that, the spread was at best going to be delayed a little bit.

      • MCH says:

        To be fair, everyone needs groceries that Walmart offers. Not everyone needs the scented candles from BBBY. (that Walmart also happens to offer big screen TV, clothing, and yes, scented candles, is entirely incidental, after all, it would be very unfair to Walmart employees if only some of them could work, so in the name of equality, Walmart and the other big brands made sure everyone can work)

        And let’s face it, eating at restaurants are fundamentally unhealthy, so shutting those places down should be ok for the national health. And oh, of course, those local mom and pop stores, they don’t have good quality control like Walmart, Whole Foods, and all of the national and regional brands. They must be shut down too.

        It’s in the best interest of everyone. REALLY.

        :P

  10. Tom20 says:

    Last week of r&r, before we head home and get the machinery out of deep freeze.

    Ate, drank, and shopped local.
    Came from an area of deplorables
    And made sure our sun and fun destination was the same.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Please share with us where is your choice of destination Tom?
      thanks

      • Tom20 says:

        No need for 80’s.
        Currently in eastpoint Florida.
        Enjoyed cedar key as well.

        Ok…really enjoyed cedar key.

        • VintageVNvet says:

          Thanks Tom,,, good to know, and agree re cedar key area,,, just hoping it does not go with the rest of FL down the drain/environmental challenges…
          Though, at this point, an olde FL native will see any and all FL locations being dredged to ”heck” by the clearly unleashed ”developers” who own the FL guv mint, lock stock and barrel, to the continuing detriment of all current FL citizens, Just Exactly Has Been the CASE since for eva…
          Thanks again for your reply,

  11. raxadian says:

    Eventually, as in years from now, restaurants and hotels will start making money again. But it will never be the same. By then a lot of hotels and restaurants from before the pandemic will be gone. Restaurants nowadays can survive with tables outside and food delivery, unless they are a place thats too big. But hotels? I honesty don’t know.

    Hey Wolf how about an article about Hotels? Because they are the sector that has been the most punished by this. Tourism may be even recover faster that Hotels, I have seen people buy trailers and chemical toilets to be able to take vacations on corona times and while this applies to my country the USA does use a lot of trailers.

    • RightNYer says:

      I don’t think hotels are in trouble because of RVs or other vacation changes, as I think that will pass. They’re in trouble because their highest margin customers, the business travelers who not only book rooms last minute at higher prices but also run up high room service bills because they’re not paying, will not be returning in full.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Hotels and motels have some work to do to get their pricing back in tune with wages, the real wages of the 99% of us rnyr.
        Driving from FL to CA and return, 10 cross country trips 2016 to 2019, for family fun and to help, to see friends, and for work, it appears to me that all the various levels of motels stayed at have raised their pricing approximately 10-15% during that time, with same or even less quality of maintenance, though the employees always polite and helpful.
        Similar with many restaurants.
        While I hope we do not go back to the $29.95 per night of several decades ago, and the equivalent quality,,, I can see no reason at all for pricing over $100, with nothing more than a tired but dry/cool room, etc., for that amount.

        • RightNYer says:

          Yeah, I have noticed that $100 is basically the minimum now, whereas I used to be able to find a room for $50 or $60.

          Also, so many hotels don’t realize the basics of customer service. While the ones that come with breakfast are nice (although you’d obviously expect a higher price for the rooms for that), why are all hotels not providing coffee in the morning? What does it cost, $4/day?

        • Lynn H says:

          Real estate costs too much. So out goes cheap clean motels and hotels.

          Our economy is basically cannibalizing itself with high RE costs.

    • 2banana says:

      The hotels and restaurants that survive will be in massive debt for decades.

      Ask any owner, you can’t make enough on take out and outside service for most.

      So either you borrow or go out of business.

    • James says:

      Restaurants will shift to digital kitchens and or food trucks. I think a small upscale dining will remain but that will be a very small part of the market

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I’ve covered hotels a number of times in terms of their mortgage defaults.

      The thing is, lodging in and around national parks and other major nature destinations were booked solid during the summer. But hotels and conference centers in big cities that cater to business travelers are dead. City hotels that cater to domestic tourism might do a little business.

  12. Anthony A. says:

    Texas has been wide open for months. Everyone I know over 65 has has gotten the vaccination (single or both doses).

    • w.c.l. says:

      I haven’t, but I.m on a waiting list. Texas is more concerned with political issues than its citizens.

      • Harrold says:

        Sad, but very true.

        In the words of Lt Gov Patrick – “there are more important things than living”.

  13. Boomer says:

    How much of the economy is WFH both in terms of numbers and earnings? What happens to those jobs after the economy collapses under the weight of the massive money printing? We hear talk of a reset. J Powell and Janet Yellen, Mario and Christine are cooking up something.

  14. RightNYer says:

    I’m not denying that there is a political element in this, or that our collective approach and response has been a disaster, but I REALLY don’t understand this stubborn refusal to wear masks, as though it somehow implicates essential liberty. And I’m a staunch conservative.

    • DeerInHeadlights says:

      There are various studies that show that mask-wearing isn’t as effective in controlling spread as it’s touted to be. I still wear one because I do want whatever little protection it does offer and also because I feel a social responsibility toward fellow human beings and don’t want to freak people out unnecessarily.

      But if you don’t even believe the virus is real, that might explain part of the mask refusal. See the reply to my comment above.

      • Alberta says:

        Dear deer,

        Sarcasm — a protest of a weak mind.

        Why project your fear onto others, for all to see?

      • RightNYer says:

        Yeah, I certainly don’t think masks are a panacea, and I never claimed otherwise. I have diligently worn one for the same reasons as you, because I want the protection it provides, even if not a ton, and I want to help control the spread to other people to the degree that I can.

      • OutsideTheBox says:

        Alberta

        Denial – Evasion practiced by weak minds.

        Why project your ignorance onto others, for all to see ?

      • Max Power says:

        Complete nonsense. Wearing masks is not just important, it’s essential. And yes, there’s a ton of studies on that (not sure where you got your info).

        Wearing masks is not just important for protecting folks but also in reducing the spread by asymptomatic people (known as “source control”). Taken together, wearing masks by both groups has shown to significantly reduce the risk of transmission among the population.

      • Harrold says:

        Anti maskers are just selfish people. That is the simple answer.

      • DeerInHeadlights says:

        @Max Power

        Lol, you like to take what you hear from the MSM as gospel, you do that. Don’t expect others to who exercise critical thinking. I am not saying that masks don’t work. Just that they’re not the “magic bullet” that the MSM touts them to be. The jury’s still out on whether they are really effective in preventing the spread of the pandemic. Even the WHO admits as much.

        As part of a complete arsenal of measures, like handwashing and social distancing, they can be effective. It just doesn’t help to use them to harass your neighbors, friends and fellow citizens with and as a tool to vilify opposing viewpoints. Not saying that you’re doing it but that’s the prevailing mood I guess and I need to vent a little! :)

  15. Petunia says:

    Was in Austin, TX a couple of weeks ago for a couple of days. The hotel was mostly empty, with restaurant and bar closed, but they were using the downtime to renovate the rooms and systems.

    The shopping malls were open, with the more upscale one busier than the others, most people there eating and drinking not shopping. The supermarket we stopped at was busy and well stocked. The chain restaurants we ate in had more patrons than we expected, maybe 25%+.
    Overall, there was a lot more activity than I expected and more than where I live.

  16. Paulo says:

    What a pile of cherry picked ___________ (nonsense).

    regarding: “In reality, much of the country is not so “shut down”. About 3 weeks back I took a trip from AZ to Lake Tahoe by motorcycle. No problem entering any gas station without a mask in AZ, and my first day mid-point food stop is a capitalist bastion of “do your own thing”. When I got to Pahrump NV I did have to mask up to enter the casino hotel, but the local Subway didn’t care.”

    And that is PRECISELY why the ‘non existent’ virus has killed almost 500K US residents. And quoting Florida stats? The place that doesn’t collect data and restricts testing?!!

    Compare this reality to your northern neighbour Canada. Extrapolated generously for population in order to compare apples to apples, the infection rate of US is3.4X and the mortality rate is 2.3X, unarguably the worst in the World, at least where any kind of data is attempted.

    Now, you enter the local Subway here without a mask you are refused service. If you insist, you are escorted out and fined by health authorities. Host a party? Arrest and fined after an overnight stay in the klink. Yet our schools are open and have been the entire pandemic after procedures settled out. (Daughter is a teacher….band, the most dangerous occupation in the system). Churches and other religious gathering spots closed. Casinos? Really? You are not allowed to enetr any business without a mask here, in fact, if you did others would treat you as a pariah and walk away to remain safe.

    Are there protests about it? Yes, but they are so small and limited they barely make the news.

    It’s all about looking after each other. If everyone does so, everyone wins and does better. Is healthier.

    The economy will not improve until the virus is whupped. The borders will not open until same. etc etc. Pretending the virus does not exist has no effect on reality.

    And Wes, everyone I know takes vitamin D. I don’t think there is a Govt conspiracy to keep it quiet. Even your Premier Ford is trying to restrain the virus, and he hates ‘Sparkle Socks’.

    rant over.

    • gnokgnoh says:

      Paulo,
      Thank you.

    • OutsideTheBox says:

      Paulo

      Good show.

      A reasonable response from a reasonable man.

    • MCH says:

      Paulo,

      what does it mean when you say “the virus is whupped?”

      Just curious.

      After all, the places where the virus is “whupped” is pretty obvious, I think if we want to adapt that particular modus operandi, it might be worth a shot. China’s economy is open as a whole, so is their schools, it’s a model that’s perhaps worth emulating.

  17. Spencer B Hall says:

    IN KC, everybody wears their masks when moving about.

  18. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    The big Portland new and used record store I frequent has had lines out the door ( they restrict # of customers inside) at any time of day or night. Not sure if people are spending their stimulus money on vinyl or just that used records are best sold in the physical realm and not online. Behind the cash register they have a sign, “ the Beatles didn’t need a website.”

    • Sam says:

      re SC,

      No website presence needed for Chuck Berry, Elvis, Little Richard, or the Rolling Stones.
      Same for Motown, Muscle Shoals, or Stax.

      Closer to home: A dwtn [inc. ne & se] pdx drive revealed how PBOT has their snow mgmt. assets focused on Metro’s needs & not the civilians traffic.
      All Trimet [PDX bus system for those out of the region] routes were cleaned & groomed.
      Half measures applied for main auto/truck traffic roads. All side (burbs) streets were left to fend for themselves.

      Ray Charles would have seen the variances in play.

      • Sam says:

        Word i was searching for: “Juxtaposed” instead of “variances”.
        As always, ymmv!

  19. nodecentrepublicansleft says:

    FL has had the 3rd most deaths of any state in the USA over the last 7 days. Just use the google machine.

    Politicizing wearing the masks and trying to sweep the pandemic under the rug has cost the US lives, $, etc. Deadly incompetence

    • RightNYer says:

      Yeah, and it coincidentally is the third most populous state.

      I bet Florida’s residents ate the third most number of hamburgers in the past seven days as well.

      New York and New Jersey both have much higher COVID case and death rates in the past seven days.

  20. Old school says:

    The USA lost a lot of wealth during covid. Just based on the amount of stimulus so far it’s probably going to end up in excess of $50,000 per person. At some point we will have to determine if we want to become more socialist or allow the creative destruction to play out and go to a new normal whatever that is, but part of it would mean risk takers eating their losses and starting over in the new world.

  21. MonkeyBusiness says:

    Let’s say a miracle drug were to appear tomorrow, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to the office. Heck, I’ll go back to watching some movies in the cinema.

  22. lenert says:

    Spanish Flu? China Virus? Not the first nor the last. As long as there are in-groups and out-groups public health will be politicized.

  23. OutWest says:

    I’ve spent over three months on the road west of the Rockies this past year (part-time remote work) and can say that there has been no better time to travel over the past few decades than right now. Just follow the nice weather and shop early in the morning before most people even get out of bed.

    My spouse and I mask up, social distance and respect local laws.

    Staff at hotels are emencly happy to have customers and a job since most hotels are nearly empty. Just drive around any new town and pick a room with a great view at a discounted price. Camping is as good as ever – just avoid national parks. Fine by me if traffic volumes stay low forever…in fact, traveling right now feels more like it was back in the late 80’s.

    • Depth Charge says:

      I had to go to small town Idaho around a month ago. The Best Western was packed. Lots of contractors were staying there.

  24. Crush the Peasants! says:

    Awaiting the return to office and return to malls tax credits.

  25. Covid cases in Mexico are just starting to ramp up, the first cases came from Aspen, some well off people in Mexico City went there for a weekend and came home infected. The death rate always trails the infection rate. Right now in CA the death rate is coming down, but LA is still a hotspot. There is a recall effect (GOP) against Newsom. Schwarzenegger rode in on the last recall in 2003 after Gray Davis saw the states electricity prices soar when the state joined a national market, (run by Enron traders). To me its rank opportunism, not ideology.

  26. When you go to a place of commerce most of the time it’s for pickup.

  27. Petunia says:

    The ice storm in the south will kill more people than covid.

    All the power outages from “green” energy not working will kill more elderly, homeless, and vulnerable people than the healthcare crisis. Solar isn’t working, wind isn’t working, and the power is out for your EV. Green energy means freezing to death for some and brownouts for the rest. All while sitting on huge reserves of proven energy.

    Sounds like a collapsing society to me.

    • Anthony A. says:

      Just heard today on the news channel in Texas where we are ( us with power, but many without) is that the grid is being taxed and near capacity use. Plus, many of the wind generators are shut down due to freeing motor drives. Rolling blackouts are going on along with downed lines, etc. My daughter and her husband have been without power since 3 AM this morning.

      It’s cold here and will be for the next week. It will be below 10 F here in Houston tonight with a good wind. Now that many homes are without power and no heat, watch the water pipes freeze and bust like in 1989. Lots of work for plumbers though.

      We also had an ice storm followed by a few inches of snow. No plows here either.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        …nature ALWAYS bats last, with walkoff capability in every swing. A maxed-out, unhardened electrical grid doesn’t care where it’s electricity comes from if it can’t transmit any more than it’s available capacity. Single-source availability of any commodity is a vulnerability most fraught…

        may we maintain equanimity in our perspectives,
        may we all find a better day.

        • Dan Romig says:

          You got that right! Ask any farmer, and they will tell you, “Mother nature calls the shots.”

          Here’s to the chemical engineers at Castrol and their 0W-20 full synthetic Edge. Minus 28 C this morning in my unheated detached garage, and no problem starting the SUV.

          Black ice has taken its toll on Twin Cities drivers who don’t put on snows this winter. Morning rush hour on the freeways spits a lot of water onto the road. On the other hand, my neighbor, who grew up in Fargo, rode his bike to work this morning- like he always does.

          “Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.”

        • Paul from NC says:

          Well put. Nature always gets the last word, no matter what hubristic humans believe. I find it funny that educated people believe that we can completely *eradicate* coronaviruses. Amazing. As if the last 70 years of dedicated research to “defeat” the cold viruses hasn’t happened. But, I digress. I completely agree that we need multi-source, and especially, *de-centralized*, small-scale (think neighborhood or house-scale) energy production for a stable and more resilient society (assuming you buy the premise that electricity is necessary, I’m not so sure anymore). The batteries are slowly getting there, and have dropped in price significantly over the last 6 years. We’re at a point where you can power your critical loads for 1-3 days for about $9000, assuming an average sized house. Still, thermal storage (molten metals, salt, water, etc.) seems to be the most efficient battery tech currently, and if we can scale that down to replace all gas-station lots with, might be sustainable for the long haul.

      • Depth Charge says:

        You have to keep the water running to keep those pipes from freezing. Leaving it shut off is a fool’s errand. Also, who doesn’t keep a generator and a week’s worth of fuel on hand? I have never understood that.

      • Denise says:

        Texas brought this on themselves. Apparently ERCOT likes to go it alone. There is no interconnect between other power districts for the purchase and sale of electricity. By going it alone they do not have to follow any of those pesky FERC rules and regulations on small issues like capacity. But they sure are quick to request emergency declaration for their own infrastructure failures. The Feds need to make sure Texans cover the hardening of their own infrastructure like we do in Florida.

    • Harrold says:

      Please,

      Over 39,000 Texans have died from Covid. 39,000 people are not going to die during this winter storm no matter what you wish.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Petunia,

      That’s almost funny, though I’m sure you meant to be. I spent nearly 3 decades living in Texas (Wichita Falls, Austin, Dallas) and Oklahoma (Tulsa). Winter storms happened back then too, everywhere I lived, including in Austin, and they will continue to happen in the future. That’s part of living in Texas and Oklahoma. They don’t happen every day, but they happen. No one is ever prepared for them. Blackouts happened back then too during winter storms, just like today. Power cables snapped, etc. But there was no wind and solar back then. Most of the power back then came from coal, natural gas, and way back in the day, petroleum.

      • lenert says:

        Dallas is 51 degrees below normal today.

        Electricity in Texas:

        Gas – 47%
        Coal – 20%
        Wind – 20%
        Nukes – 10%

        • Reverse Petunia says:

          lenert,
          Thanks for that refreshing sip of wine to wash away the taste of propaganda basted with the all-to-predictable grievance sauce of the day from Petunia

          I’ll add one more bit of info you left out regarding Texas electricity generation;
          Gas – 47%
          Coal – 20%
          Wind – 20%
          Nukes – 10%

          SOLAR – 1.1%

          So the conclusion is of course that it must obviously be that communist plot of SOLAR + WIND green-fangled energy generation is causing death and destruction and gnashing of teeth suffered by CO2 loving souls.

          I expect that the next post in reply will be about how the Texas Comptroller General’s office can’t be trusted for this sort of information. We had better turn to Q or some other fantasy-based ego-feed.

        • Petunia says:

          RP,

          I’m honored to be emulated, if badly.

          I have nothing against new technologies, I love new tech. I hate when new tech gets rammed into everybody’s lives, without it being generally worth it. By all means put solar panels on your house, a wind fan in your backyard, battery pack in your garage, EV too. Get a 5G phone too.

          Just don’t expect me to applaud a poor idea gone viral.

        • Depth Charge says:

          “I have nothing against new technologies, I love new tech. I hate when new tech gets rammed into everybody’s lives, without it being generally worth it. By all means put solar panels on your house, a wind fan in your backyard, battery pack in your garage, EV too. Get a 5G phone too.

          Just don’t expect me to applaud a poor idea gone viral.”

          + a million, Petunia.

        • ru82 says:

          Will Nuclear make a comeback? Gates was on 60 Minutes promoting a nuclear. On the last Tesla earnings call Elon said he was in favor of Nuclear as long as it was not built on the coast. ;)

          Wind and solar is not consistent enough. Just when you thought nuclear was dead. LOL.

          Better start buying uranium companies again.

      • NBay says:

        Oklahoma…

        Walked from dorms over to Mr Bills on OU campus in t-shirt one warm Sunday am to watch football game, 150 yds or so. When I walked out the temp had dropped 30 degrees.

        As the locals said, “Nothing between here and the North Pole but a 3 strand barbed wire fence that needs fixing'”

    • Swamp Creature says:

      That’s another reason I keep my RJ11 horse & buggy verizon telephone line. Works during power outages.

      • RightNYer says:

        Assuming you actually have a non-powered phone to go with it :)

        • Swamp Creature says:

          Yep, got my Virgin Mobile flip phone. Take it with me for emergencies and to call clients.

          When the power went out here in the Swamp in 2012 for a week because of a Derachio I was able to use my laptop on the RJ11 dial up line to do my work. It was slow but was able to keep the business running. We checked into a Hotel for the later part of the outage, and operated out of there.

          Its called a disaster recovery/continuity plan. Everyone should have one.

    • tom20 says:

      China CCP is cranking out coal plants.
      Our neighbor to the south are now leaving the
      green dream to the rich, and adding coal back into the mix.

      But our 0.1% will make sure the dream lives on.

  28. SpencerG says:

    I really don’t think the hybrid office thing will work out for very long. For a lot of reasons. Here’s two:

    First off, from the employer’s point of view, productivity drops through the floor… and in ways not captured by the statisticians but that every boss can see. It may not matter when ALL of your competitors (around the world) are suffering the same fate… but you can bet that as soon as the business starts drifting towards the companies that are fully open… the rest will take appropriate action to be competitive.

    Secondly, from the employee’s point of view, face time with the boss(es) is a valuable thing. Particularly EXCLUSIVE face time if you can get it. And how do you get that if you are only in the office occasionally… on days that may not correspond with those occasional days that the boss comes in?

    I had both of these situations happen to me in my last Reserve unit. Navy Reservists have to pay the travel costs to their assigned Reserve Center… and most of the officers end up having to fly to their center… so most of your drill weekend salary goes to an airline and a rental car company.

    So to make the unit more friendly to officers who had to travel to the Detroit Reserve Center my unit Commanding Officer decided to let people come in once a month if they wanted and do six days of drills rather than the normal two days. Not only could you not get things done because the Admin Officer or the Training Officer (etc.) wouldn’t be in on the days that you came in… but come Fitness Report time the Commanding Officer may have laid eyes on you once or twice (if you were lucky).

    After six months of this I vowed never to miss a drill weekend (unless I was sent overseas for an assignment in which case the CO knew exactly who I was, where I was, and what I was doing due to my nightly reports). The next Captain who came in to take over cancelled this whole approach within three months. We took a hit on recruiting Reservists to our unit, but we worked that out after a while… and productivity rocketed upwards.

  29. stan6565 says:

    The office workers that do not have to be working from the office will be replaced by *outsourced* office workers in Mumbai and places like that. They won’t have any use retraining as coders because coding was outsourced to Mumbai many years back. They will not be able to compete with current crop of Uber and Justeat delivery advisers, and will slowly just die off. Entropy and evolution packaged together.

    I am looking at the signs of disruption to my own industry (I am an engineering consultant), but I guess for as long as I am required even only occasionally to go to a building site and pass judgment on what I see, I cannot be outsourced.

    Of course, if the insurance industry decides that Mumbai based outsourced *consultants* can deliver advices on the basis of photos or zoom meeting *and* be bound by a professional indemnity insurance recognised in U.K. courts, then I am toast as well. I may have to retrain as a contract hitman, at least that profession is absolutely location dependant. Same goes for Spain, USA, Israel and any other locality.

    Apologies to all the good folk of Mumbai, their town name was an example of a general location framework.

    • Harrold says:

      I am puzzled why people think covid will cause an epiphany about outsourcing to India?

      Outsourcing to India has been going on for 25+ years now.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        Harrold-sadly, just another whiff of slowly-boiling (or boiled) frog…

        may we all find a better day.

      • kitten lopez says:

        i think they’re talking about now that the proverbial “They” has already come for the gypsies, the blacks, the poor white, the working class everyone— the NEXT wave of out-sourcing or temp/gig work will now be another lurch to the bottom, gutting what’s left of the MIDDLE CLASS paper pushers/billers now. something very much above call centers.

        x

        • NBay says:

          Yep…instead of being summoned to HR, you just go to login from home and can’t. Gets rid of you and people, custodians in the HR dept, too. Very efficient. Stock goes up for having good management.

      • Chuck_A says:

        I’m with Harrold on this. I’m in IT – Have not had a need to Physically be in the Office for 20years (over three different employers). The office / physical presence makes it nice, makes thing easier until you get the how things are running, but really not needed.

        I work for a large company. They have a large offshore presence already, Covid is not enlighten anyone about who they need physically in the office.

        We have “Hybrid” mode too and was in place well before I worked here. Up to 3 days a week work from home. Full time WFH for certain exceptions. Honestly I though most places did this already? My last employer did – so I don’t know.

        The handful of people I know who have been let go so far were let go because of the lack of business. My buddy lost his job at the end of the year, lost a lot of work, customers not renewing, and they consolidated departments.

        A lot of of comes down to “Doom Porn” – People like to point to other people and tell them there job is on the chopping block, some sort of enjoyment I guess?

        • Paul from NC says:

          Same here. I’ve been between 75% to 100% remote over 20 years now. Started with GE, which may have been the inventor of offshoring. Yet, there’s still plenty of jobs out there to be had (assuming you’re of a certain age group), though for sure the nature of tech work has changed, and absolutely it is much harder for the youngsters to find a true entry-level non-experienced gig these days, in which they can learn and work their way up. As far as I can see, Covid has simply increased the pace of the non-tech white-collar places’ embrace of remote working.

  30. kitten lopez says:

    “A society is truly in trouble if people prefer to live a fear-based virtual life vs a vibrant life full of real interpersonal relationships at work and play.”

    i read the comments above and despair that humanity will ever get it together because Paolo, safely ensconced in his rational Canadian position where he buys up houses to choose his neighbors (and world), feels rage at one of The Last Few Remaining American Motorcycle Guys for actually going on adventures on land and daring to breathe on things all over the lower 48.

    let’s not even get into helmet laws.

    but your fear based dead life vs. the magic fun of real germy leaky messy people:

    THAT’s why i don’t wear a mask outside or anywhere unless i’m forced to in a store. / i’d rather risk getting ill than avoid enjoying the people who make life worth LIVING.

    my mom taught me to not be fussy about germs or bugs and spiders, and i had to go to school unless i was vomiting blood, so now i’ll hug a homeless man or woman who comes up to me while dancing outside and apologize to him or her for my being sweaty, and i won’t avoid someone’s lips on my glass if i offered them a sip. / in fact, it feels like a distant kiss.

    but i flipped down my mask to smile at a (maskless) toddler in the front of his mother’s shopping cart at Trader Joe’s and he got bug-eyed staring at me as another masked kid passed by in a stroller, with that dead autistic look, not looking up at people or catching facial their expressions.

    i said to the mom with the still-alive kid, “this mask thing can’t be good for them.”

    she didn’t quite know what i meant. just said “yes,” he tries to yank her mask off whenever she leans in towards him.

    i’m not even a toddler but the city is dead to me when everyone is …hidden afraid isolated.

    forget how many died… how many are LIVING???

    i’m not talking just about San Francisco, but nothing can come “back” until leaky messing interesting fearless curious derring do humanity dares to come back ANYWHERE.

    and Dano- Motorcycle Guy above – i hope you continue to travel and breathe on and lick everything and touch it twice without gloves, even if it makes the likes of our own dear Paolo shiver his timbers.

    (smile)

    i don’t know Paolo but i know that i’d make his ears red with rage at my mere existence but i’ve trained at many family dinners to keep us at least talking. why can’t we all do that? and i’m a Grade A Original Unapologetic Asshole!

    x

  31. Engin-ear says:

    “Have Some of these Massive Shifts Become Permanent?”

    Not more permanent than the public and private borrowing.

    That is just my opinion, of course.

  32. Cobalt Programmer says:

    1. Only few administrative and soft-skills works are friendly to “work from home”. Even in US, NY or LA has so much of WFH jobs while the midwest and other places have work in office kind of jobs. Bosses and middle level managers can make it but workers have to report to the office.
    2. Mumbai- financial capitol of India (like NY). Bangalur- Software capitol (Like LA). Now work can be done virtually everywhere. These changes the equation.
    3. Some jobs like Movie theaters and lunch based office restaurants are not coming back. Movies will be streamed and lunch will be delivered to home/office.
    4. Employer wants one thing. Get job done. If you can work from home and get work done then why not? But not all jobs. Firefighters, cops, doctors and soldiers must report to work.
    5. Office is the best place to relax from the stress filled home life. Now where would you just chill?
    6. I am back.

  33. Swamp Creature says:

    The only thing we’ve changed in our VA residential appraisal business due to the pandemic is:

    1. Not going into properties that are occupied. Doing exterior only appraisals.

    2. Taking our mandatory courses using zoom on-line vs in person.

    These are minor inconveniences.

    Other than that we have unaffected by the pandemic. Its business as usual. Actually we are getting more than we can handle because of the low interest rates. We are very lucky.

    • Depth Charge says:

      Enjoy it, because rates really can’t go any lower. They’ve stolen every bit of future housing demand they possibly can. Just sickening.

    • Whatsthepoint says:

      Drive by appraisals…ugh…good luck when the market tanks and the collateral is actually a pit inside.. but who cares? The mortgage has long been sold off to FNMA by then….

      • Swamp Creature says:

        Yep,

        I agree this is a sorry way to do an appraisal. Who knows what’s inside? To depend on the owner who is getting the loan to send pictures of the inside is like asking the Fox to guard the henhouse. I’ve voiced my opinion about this and have been told by the Lending industry to shut up and just hit the value of the loan. The hell with the collateral. This bubble is about as bad as that in 2007. Everyone is in on the scam. Even the VA. The Vet is the victim, but doesn’t know it yet.

        I see the whole house of cards collapsing just like it did in 2008 or worse.

    • Swamp Creature says:

      I forgot to add:

      Since nearly all the restaurants are closed in the DC Swamp. the only place to relieve yourself is in the woods. Better not get caught on camera. There is big fine awaiting you. We’ve been reduced to an animal’s existence because of this pandemic.

  34. coboarts says:

    So much of that WFH work is BS work, but the employers haven’t yet figured that out; my employer is a perfect example. They don’t yet ‘get’ how to maximize centralization and automation, but they’re too smart to get it. Education doesn’t yet, ‘get’, that hundreds of thousands of teachers are completely unnecessary. Standardized courses can be delivered, virtually, to all students. I once wanted to rage against what I see as the inevitable future by promoting the idea that the “Arts” should drive education – but hahahaha!

  35. Tom Fish says:

    Income/tax trivia:

    I graduated UC Berkeley MBA, 1957. Class *Highest salary: $7,800/year
    2000.. *Average Salary: $171,000

    Who said inflation??

    • RedRaider says:

      My first salary in 1973 was $7,500. The last year I worked was 2005 at $95k.
      That works out to 8.25% increase per year. As much as I would like to believe I was that valuable of an employee I have to think half of it was due to inflation.

  36. RedRaider says:

    Early in my career modems had just been invented. Employers liked to have employees check out modems if they were on 24 hour call. The problem was building wiring had been patched so much the modems had a hard time remaining connected more than 5 minutes at a time… very frustrating. Just not ready for prime time. This was as close as we got to WFH. I think another problem was no manager was going to risk his career suggesting something as untested as WFH.

    With fiber optic cable all the rage these days the problem remaining connected is a thing of yesteryear. And Covid forced managers to try WFH even if it was against their will. Although the results aren’t fully in yet I have to guess we just experienced a paradigm shift that’s changed the country forever.

  37. mike oxbig says:

    In the aggregate, consumers have more money to spend now than before covid, even though so many are unemployed , because of the gov’t checks.

    And they are going to spend it one way or the other, even though stores are shuttered.

    Hence, thousands of tanker ships waiting to unload in California from China.

    It is a whole new world. The trade deficit should absolutely explode.
    Tank the dollar, drive up all asset prices until the public understands that their currency is not worth shit. It may take them a long time, too, seeing as how stupid they are.

  38. Rowen says:

    Just wait until Work From Home fully integrates with the Uberization of the workforce.

    Workers gonna be paid per TPS report.

    • gorbachev says:

      Banks gonna get paid based on collections by mall owners which are based on sales. Employees gonna get paid based on sales unless
      of course, they are too successful, and then it will be straight time.
      On it goes.

  39. Brad Tifman says:

    Oh, the lies that have been told, and the lies that have been believed.

    America has been flown into a box canyon: Still flying and with lots of room to maneuver in, but doomed, none the less.

    • Sam says:

      BT,

      There are [box canyon] exit options, but remedial effort(s) must be quickly applied. mountainflying.com/Pages/mountain-flying/box_canyon_turn.html

      Otherwise – The trap is sprung. Fate awaits……
      ntsb.gov/news/events/Pages/Crash_During_Turn_Maneuver_Cirrus_SR-20_N929CD_Manhattan_New_York_New_York_October_11_2006.aspx

  40. char says:

    covid will change hairstyles and a lot of people will get to be used to the partner doing their hair so even hairdressers will get hurt.

  41. K says:

    Human nature will not change, so while malls were no longer going to remain the primary location for shopping for most Americans because most Americans have been getting poorer due to the monkeying around with the CPI to hide inflation, so their salaries have not kept up, malls and other shopping places will eventually return. See “The major problem with the CPI and how it hurts the economy” in Forbes Magazine. They will be greatly diminished.

    Like Pavlov’s dogs, if you scare them often enough, Americans will adapt their behavior and avoid such places. However, malls were already on the way to becoming experience providers and not shopping centers before the pandemic.

    I predict that will continue albeit fewer businesses will survive this catastrophe, particularly because too many are about to fall from the ropes and the US created so many US dollars in 2019 to 2020 that hyperinflation will occur, probably in a stagflation catastrophe. See “US Printed More Money in One Month Than in Two Centuries” in cointelegraph.

  42. endeavor says:

    As a retiree, really love the home made haircuts vs take out. In case of a skid mark, my huge supply of baseball caps gets er done!

  43. WSKJ says:

    Feb. 16, 2021
    Wolf, thank you for entirely deleting my Comment, in response to DeerInHeadlights, of yesterday. I stand by everything that I wrote, but it was not composed for those who don’t regularly keep up on the medical research; I let myself go a bit; and I should have written in my usual painstaking manner more kind of like the aboves of Sunny129.
    ***************
    That said, I believe that the awareness that big pharma is in fact working on treatments that are NOT vaccines, but are treatments, is important and is pertinent to your post above.
    ***************
    Thanks again for helping me maintain whatever reliability I have earned with careful and complete comments. I miss MichealEngel; and if you prefer that I “not go away angry; just go away”, then spell it out for me.

    Your work at WolfStreet is important, and your time for reviewing Comments is limited until you clone yourself. Wish I had time to perfect this comment !

    • Wolf Richter says:

      WSKJ,

      I love you all, but I had to delete the first comment that had hijacked the entire comment thread, after it become clear to me that it was hijacking the entire comment thread, and all 50 or so comments that were by then attached to it, including a bunch of my own comments and also one of yours, went down with it.

      The comment that hijacked the thread was not from DeerInHeadlights; his comment was just a bystander. The comment I deleted was far higher.

      To specifically address your point: I do NOT allow the promotion of supplements, pharma products, chemicals, etc. on this site, no matter what, period! This comment section can get dozens of promos a day for drugs to treat anything from erectile dysfunction to old age. I make sure that they never see the light of the day. The problem for me arises when trusted commenters suddenly promote pharma stuff. Then I have to hit the delete key.

      Don’t take the deletion of comments personally. They included a bunch of my own comments. Happens to the best of us :-]

      • DeerInHeadlights says:

        I didn’t even read the replies before they were gone. No worries. Thanks for keeping things clean Wolf. I know we get on your nerves pretty often but I don’t take it personally. Hey…you can’t pick your readers. This is after all the interwebs…. ;)

        • Wolf Richter says:

          DeerInHeadlights,

          The initial comment that had triggered all this was not your comment. It was much further up. Your comment was one of the bystanders that got knocked down along with it. I’m not sure why that one comment hijacked the whole thread. It clearly wasn’t meant to do that, it was an OK comment, but it just unleashed a tsunami of all-over-the-map unrelated Covid stuff and arguments.

      • Dan Romig says:

        My comment on the used car sales profit mentions a few companies’ products by corporate name. Had I read this first, I may have been better off not giving the manufacture’s names.

        You keep a fantastic comment thread Wolf. Thank you.

      • kitten lopez says:

        yeah i’m REALLY glad you said something because after cutting off my last, longest friend of 30 years, for meeting me at Atlas cafe and promptly excusing himself to zoom on his phone with a girl in Germany he’d never met who was afraid ghosts were harassing her.

        this pandemic is making everyone insane but i don’t dig pussy-whipped men without boundaries who think their phones are more interesting or important than me showing up in person. everyone’s a heroin addict with these things.

        that’s not you, Dear Wolf.

        but this NOT TAKING IT PERSONALLY thing, don’t get it twisted: WE DO. / i almost divorced you, TOO, after spending an hour editing down what i’d written. i spent an hour in the tub seething and planning my entire retreat offline forever now that many of us are being eradicated as Obsolete.

        Deer in Headlights may be chill about it all, but yeah, some of us may not mind being edited by you anymore (and actually take pleasure in the attention and care) but some–LIKE MYSELF–take the entire deletion of comments verrrrry seriously because after all the writing and thinking and trying to be Zanetsu-respectful to Paolo and defend Dano, one of the last five motorcyclists in the country, who was going around the lower 48 breathing on everything to everyone’s abject horror, i THEN spend an half-day quadruple-guessing everything i say or even privately THINK because you know that’s MY TRIGGER ish, this being eternally told i’m “inappropriate” at nice restaurants or in public in general, we’re a lot of us TOUCHY as hell especially nowadays when trip wires can be absolutely anywhere and everywhere and pop up at ANY time.

        so i’m glad it was just vitamin supplement pitches that got us culled this time. well done. thank you for protecting us from the street spray.

        but/and/so Dearest Wolf, don’t take our near-divorce PERSONALLY.

        i’m twitchy about counting on humanity to come up with anything that’s not gonna make life suck WORSE right now, so i’m giving up on people and feeding a baby raccoon against James’ strongest wishes.

        but i said, “this is what happens when there are no children or old people around to take care of and learn from. this is what happens when we’re all the same age and people only have pets to love in san francisco because we can’t stand each other anymore.”

        and this is why i end up walking down the stairs at night in secret, because i’ve given up on people and i want the baby raccoon who i’ve never seen but James said was batting my bra around on the clothesline, i want this baby raccoon to grow up and believe in magic kitty treats appearing nightly.

        so thanks for the explanation. i hated you for half a day. but again, as you said: don’t take it PERSONALLY.

        (wink and a smile and much love and affection)

        -Kitten

        x

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Running this comment section is in some ways the most difficult thing I do every day. I piss people off constantly. I piss myself off. I have to be incredibly judgmental in a split second because I have to deal with hundreds of comments every day. The other option is to shut it down entirely. Many websites have shut down their comments because they’re too hard to manage. But I love the comment section.

  44. Russell says:

    Wolf – I will continue reading your blog because it is both informative and entertaining regardless of whether you allow my posts. Hopefully you are reading them prior to deleting.

    It was mentioned previously that wind was “only” 20% of the energy supply in Texas. Taking 20% off-line during the most heavily taxed time, a cold snap, will have adverse effects regardless if the rest of the capacity is available. It isn’t the grid that is the problem.

    Also, Texas is doing just fine in the COVID battle. Right in the middle, 24th, of deaths/capita, and active cases falling like a rock.

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      Russell-check utility gas-turbine failure status in your fine state this am. Weather hit a walkoff. An unhardened grid (which includes the generation-capacity basket) has a finite ampacity in the face of an overwhelming inductive heating demand. Hope your own heat/power is working well, succor soon to those whose hasn’t.

      Best from a friend and fellow American in California.

      and…may we all find a better day.

  45. 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

    (Wolf-sorry, but i must respond, here. As always, understand an x-out).

    Randy-who will curse the darkness when you are gone? (…as far as we know, none of the extinct species had fire or candle-making capability…). My apologies, but people will move to a better opportunity-always have, always will-much as your ancestors did when they presumably left Europe for the New World (i’ve advocated employer card-check for all of my working life-‘Muricans were hiring the illegal folk for lower wages-the ‘lost-my-job’ blowback always seemed to have more of victim-blaming spin to it).

    History’s wheel turns constantly, and stops for none of us. The ability to adapt to change is the foremost tool in a human’s belt, but the hardest to use if one has had a lifetime of relatively stable/comfortable existence.

    May you find a working way forward, and that your pain may lessen.

    may we all find a better day.

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