The Coronavirus and Our Economy

April 2020

It may seem hard to believe in this challenging moment of the COVID-19 virus (also known as the novel coronavirus), but the Consumer Confidence Index in Florida hit a new peak this past month, rising 3.1 points to a level we have not seen in nearly 20 years.

Released the first week of March, these numbers indicate that Floridians continue to be optimistic about our state’s economic outlook, bullish on
job creation (unemployment sits at 3 percent in Florida and 1.8 percent in Miami-Dade County, respectively) and the financial ability, timing and desire to make a significant household purchase.

Economic indicators across Florida have been positive throughout the past year. With the exception of one month, Florida’s over-the-year job growth has exceeded the nation’s average rate since April 2012 – nearly eight years running, across two governors and their administrations, as well as two presidents and their leadership. As a result, we are approaching full employment (meaning, everyone who wants a job has a job). Talk to any business owner looking for people with highly specific, specialized skills needed for open positions, and they will verify the challenge to fill open spots.

However, due in large part to the concerns over the coronavirus and its direct effect on supply chain, global trade and world travel, the last month saw the worst declines for stocks since 2008. This pandemic could ultimately hamper economic growth around the world and impact heavily our great State of Florida, the 17th largest economy on the planet with its own trillion-dollar marketplace.

In conversations with our visitor industry, they too are seeing significant cancellations for conferences and industry meetings, especially those that convene large gatherings with international audiences. Even our much heralded eMerge decided to postpone its program in an abundance of caution over concerns about its delegates’ travel to Miami.

Thus, you have the two-headed monster – an economy that wants to continue to roar and a worldwide medical phenomenon that is putting a muzzle on growth.

What can we do? Well, support your local hoteliers, host your meetings and programs closer to home, and use additional hygiene measures that encourage a sanitary approach. Ask your sick employees to stay home until they have recovered fully and most of all, be flexible and understanding for those that might have come into contact with someone exposed to the coronavirus (or fear that they have). Yes, we know the flu kills many more people a year than COVID-19, but the uncertainty and confusion about this virus seems to know no boundaries.

In closing, our consumers remain confident – even in an era of ambiguity – and we need to continue to encourage them to shop and spend, while taking the best care possible of each other over the next few weeks and months. That is what neighbors do!

The Coronavirus and Our Economy by Mark Trowbridge
Mark Trowbridge is the president and CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce