How’s Your Economy, Small Businesses Death Watch Edition

It’s depressing, but not exactly surprising, to see a major New York Times story about one-third of the small businesses in the city have died or expected to shutter. Needless to say, it’s not just restaurants. The piece showcased Busy Bodies, a playspace for children in Brooklyn, and Bank Street Bookstore, a children’s bookstore, as among the casualties. From the article:

An expanding universe of distinctive small businesses — from coffee shops to dry cleaners to hardware stores — that give New York’s neighborhoods their unique personalities and are key to the city’s economy are starting to topple….

While New York is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters than any city in the country, small businesses are the city’s backbone. They represent roughly 98 percent of the employers in the city and provide jobs to more than 3 million people, which is about half of its work force, according to the city…

The first to fall were businesses, especially retail shops, that depended on New York City’s massive flow of commuters. And months into the crisis, established businesses that once seemed invincible, including some that had ambitious expansion plans, are cratering under a sustained collapse in consumer spending.

It was an easy call, sadly, to predict the demise of shops that depended on commuter traffic. In my short visits to NYC (where I am doing nothing except medical stuff, but that does mean a few cab rides), it’s spooky how underpopulated Midtown and the Flatiron district on weekdays. Another testament was how few restaurants near my hotel, which was on the edge of Midtown, were open; I wound up ordering from the same place repeatedly because it was open, adequate, and would deliver. I began to suspect it was in the money laundering business since that would explain its survival. It had no menu online, not even a website. When I asked to drop off one with one of my meals, they said, “We don’t really have one.”

We’d forecast a hollowed-out New York City, but seeing it happen, and quickly, is still disheartening, even before you get to the human trauma of job loss. Running errands on foot, being friendly with local shop staff, and the entertainment value of active street life, the charm of cities, will be diminished.

Here in Birmingham, as I’ve said, things look a lot like the old normal, but we’ve already had quite a few formerly successful restaurants close and others are trying to limp along on takeout, which of course means lower headcount. I know a local manufacturer plans to cut 40% of its staff once the PPP obligation passes, which is soon. More stores in underpopulated malls, even upscale malls, are vacant as national and regional chains close shops or even liquidate. Salons and gyms are still open but I don’t have a handle on how they are doing. I don’t see any local reports on commercial rent arrearages.

The flip side is Birmingham isn’t a tourist destination nor does it have many big businesses outside the University of Alabama and some large hospitals, so the decline in travel is hitting the city less hard than a lot of other parts of the US. However, there’s also typically a lot of moderate to big ticket home upgrading in this suburb (the kind that requires contractors). I see much less of it this summer than usual. But a lake about an hour from here which is one of the deepest and cleanest in the US has homes and condos on it selling like hotcakes; the only inventory is inferior properties.

That is a long-winded way of asking: how is your local economy doing? And specifically, how do small businesses seem to be holding up?

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    I know from friends in the UK who run small businesses that so far they are doing ok – the government supports are ‘so far’ working to keep them from going under, but they are very dependant on an upturn later on this year if and when supports are removed. One friend runs a small music venue/bar/cafe – the music venue aspect is obviously problematic with social distancing, but he thinks he can keep ticking over with food and drink for the rest of the year as his costs base is relatively low. Another is happy enough as he depends mostly on domestic tourists, so if anything he should do better later in the year. But there is a lot of uncertainty.

    I spent some of my weekend just wandering Dublin to get a feel for things. Quite a few places haven’t opened up despite being permitted – I’ve heard that many are nervous about enduring the costs of another shut down, so are essentially deciding the summer is a wipe-out. Tourist junk shops have stayed closed. Quite a few cafes are just doing take-out. A lot of places have used the time for new fit-outs, there is clearly a lot of redecorating going on. I know the owner of a mid sized furniture shop and he says he’s had record sales, but problems getting stock from the UK – he thinks a lot of people have decided to spend their vacation money on new sofas instead – plus he is benefitting from small business refits.

    Some businesses seem delusional. A small vegan fast food place opened up in my neighbourhood last week – right in the heart of what is supposed to be a big new college district (a major new campus is under construction). I thought I’d give it a try. It was empty, although the staff seemed busy enough with Deliveroo orders. I was surprised at the price though – far too expensive for me for a snack, I doubt students could afford it. They charged the same for a small vegan hot dog and can of beer that two local pubs would charge for a far superior (vegan) meal with pint of beer. It has no chance with those prices.

    Sunday I spent several hours wandering the city to get a feeling for whats happening – it was a holiday weekend here so everything was pretty quiet, with just a handful of foreign tourists looking a little lost. I wandered down to the docklands area, where the big tech companies and banks are based. It feels deserted, with lots of apartments seemingly empty (many ‘work from home’ people have done just that – returned to their homes in other countries). A brand new mega bar/restaurant, part of a UK chain had just opened. Normally its the sort of place I’d avoid, but I was curious to have a look and hungry, so I thought I’d have a pint and a veggie burger. They had no menu, referring me to the online menu. The website was down. So I just ordered. The pint was very poor, the burger and fries would hardly feed a small bird. I was genuinely shocked at the bill, at least twice what I expected, even allowing for the brand and location. I’d have complained, but the staff all looked very new and clueless and clearly hadn’t been trained (the server didn’t even know they served multiple types of pale ale, and couldn’t recommend me one when I asked). None of the handful of other customers looked very impressed either. Given that it has space to socially distance (it has a vast floorspace), it might do ok for a while, but I can’t see even hipster techies being able to afford those prices, so I doubt if it will survive – but its not a business I’d have any sympathy for.

    1. Musicismath

      It could be, of course, that you’re seeing a new price structure emerging for restaurant and cafe food in a COVID (and possibly post-COVID) world. What looks like price gouging now could well be the prices we’ll have to pay for this kind of food in the future.

  2. zagonostra

    Shopping in Richmond, VA, commerce seems to be busy. I’m not familiar with the area since I’m here helping daughter move into an apartment to start a new job next week (RN). When we were out and about, stores were full, furniture, groceries, etc. There were some large malls outside where she is renting, Henrico, that are empty husks, but I don’t know if that was the case pre-covid.

    Aside from everyone wearing masks and social distancing, people seem to be out and about. Also, traffic coming up from SE Florida seemed almost normal (lots of cars). I work for an airline industry related company so I know downturn is not evenly spread..good article by Herbert Horan on airline industry collapse by the way…I’m glad I’m near retirement.

  3. Knifecatcher

    My PMC heavy Denver suburb seems to be holding its own. There was one major restaurant casualty, Punch Bowl Social, which remodeled the former Stapleton airport air traffic control tower into an upscale hangout / eatery.

    Personally I’m getting out while the getting is good – inexplicably the housing market is still hot here, so I’m cashing out and moving to the mountains at the end of this month. 9 acres of pine trees on a private road in a sparsely populated mountain county sounds like a pretty good place to spend the next year or two.

    1. Skeptamistic

      My central-Denver network of restaurants and other venues began collapsing early. I increased my frequency of orders. Furloughs for me began during the summer (one week in four), and I’m gaining weight, so I can’t splurge like this forever.

      * The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, a regional jewel, is shut down until well into 2021.
      * My favorite downtown restaurant and haunt, in the heart of a business + tourist district with great architectural restorations, closed after almost 40 years in biz. I’ve known the owner for 20 of those year. He said he had had been thinking about retiring.
      * The nearby downtown hotels say they are bleeding badly from the crowd-size controls in the public-health orders, and I believe them. To serve a revised health order, a simple-enough quantitative model to account for the huge spaces of their meeting facilities doesn’t seem to be available. A pro bono engagement from blue chip firm might help them.
      * A family restaurant + bar on a major artery three blocks from my house has posted a GoFundMe link on their home page and printed version on their door. The staff sounds cheerful when I stop by for pickup, but they always do.
      * Since pre-covid, every time I stop at my preferred dry cleaning business I ask the proprietor and seamstress “How’s business?” On every recent visit, “Slow” has been her reply. She is innovating, producing attractive face masks priced at $10. Her shop is in a converted bungalow on a south-bound commuter street on expensive real estate, so I’m sure she’s lost business from office workers who now work in casual clothes from home or were furloughed or laid off.
      * Commuter streets are 1.5 blocks to my south and north. Traffic is never heavy on them now — in central Denver.
      * A local alt weekly owned by Village Voice seems to be continuing on cannabis ads. It reports the closing of a bar or small entertainment venue every week or so. The hard-copy page count seems to be about half of what it used to be.
      * My nearby indie bookstore is on reduced hours for pickup only.

      Like Knifecatcher, I’m surprised at the housing market. Apartment vacancies were tight pre-pandemic but median rents are now down about 2% YoY in recent surveys. As for my single-family detached house, I’m thinking of opening a hedge trade while considering a later move. So far a hedge trade looks tricky. The Case Shiller futures contract volume is too low (I don’t notice options), and many liquid stocks don’t look ready for shorts. They’ll get there eventually, but the market can remain irrational longer than….

      Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised yet. The small biz figures for Denver are better than I’m entitled to expect. Recent Paychex data shows small-biz employment YoY (July) “growth” at #1 among the surveyed cities, down a couple of index points. It reached #1 because it didn’t drop as much as the others. Wages rose 3 percent in the survey, ranked 12th.

      Thanks for asking. The news is better than I had believed. :)

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Thanks for this report.

        Remember that PPP required payroll maintenance started ending in July. Timing depends on when $ received.

        1. Skeptamistic

          Yep, good catch! Recognizing that I missed that angle, and left a few typos, I’ll plan to post only during to daylight hours in the future.

          The Paychex data also shows that Construction was the top sector. Plenty of road construction work here accelerated during the first lockdown, notably a few miles of expansion of I-70 through town. Most of that I-70 work is paid with Federal money.

  4. DTK

    We have a wholesale nursery in Lexington, KY which is home to two universities, the thoroughbred horse industry, and adjacent to the bourbon industry. Our business is open and sales are good however the customers of our customers are not the large percentage of us that don’t have a few hundred dollars for an emergency. Despite our “normal” year, I expect the depression to affect the so called green industry. There are two Americas and the contrast is stark and getting starker.

    1. 430 MLK

      I’m in Lexington, too. (You forgot the community college here that’s 5x bigger than the second university you cited!….says the community college professor.)

      Over the past decade, Lexington has moved to give tourism a bigger city footprint, conjoined with the University and horse/bourbon industries. Lots of millionaire and billionaire money flows through here (our airport stayed open to fly out Bin Laden’s parents, in town to buy horses, the day after 9/11), so upper-scale businesses have managed thus far, but the city is on the hook for about $500 million in subsidies to industries (renovated coliseum/convo center, art hotels, etc.) that are going to stress the city budget going forward for the next decade.

      Thus far, news has mostly focused on restaurant closings, of which there have been many, and less on the emergency procedures the city has taken to start covering some of their public/private partnerships. Our last 70s/80s mall, which was refurbished during the Aughts, is entering bankruptcy. The colleges start up here in a couple weeks; we’ll probably know more then. The city has gotten used to 30,000 of the state’s sons and daughters of upper-income households (and their wealthier out-of-state and out-of-country brethren) who come for four years to root on the Cats. Jury is still out on how many come back and how much they’ll spend when they’re here.

      Residential real estate has continued to increase over the course of the shutdown, or so says my mother who is looking to move closer to us. My guess is it’s a function of the move away from big-cities and a Covid-inspired consolidation of family units. Compared to Denver or San Fran or Austin or NYC or New Jersey, Lexington real estate is super-cheap. Of course, for actual residents living here or in the state, that same real estate is unaffordable and getting worse.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        ” My guess is it’s a function of the move away from big-cities and a Covid-inspired consolidation of family units. ”

        i’d like more reporting on this aspect of the current troubles.

        brother(PMC, Kingwood, Texas) says he knows lots of folks looking to move out to the sticks or the near-sticks.He notes that none of them would survive if they had to kill and eat their dinner, build a fire or construct a brush shelter, or any of a million little things real country folk do all the time. I was pleased that my brother retains some memory of where he comes from.
        the family unit consolidation, oth, is something poor people of all stripes are familiar with… it’s just “new” to those on higher rungs until now.
        I haven’t had the time or inclination to engage with the local realty crowd(unpleasant people, imo…like used car salesmen), but i might have to knuckle down and corner one or two,lol.
        last thing this place needs at the beginning of a civilisational crisis is a bunch of city folks moving out and lording over us hillfolk.
        of course, the local powers that be are likely pursuing just this outcome…which fits right in with the philosophy of development that has become a sort of unspoken gospel in those circles(cater to the well off; damn the locals)

      2. boots

        I’m in Madison County, KY, to the south of y’all. Company town run by an octopus of a private college. It administers federal grants all throughout southeast KY, biggest privately held forest in the state, billion dollar endowment, free for Pell Grant recipients and students from countries that are State Department targets, has Mitch McConnell’s ear.

        Students here never bought anything, except menstrual pads from the WalMart, so I don’t think their exodus hurt much. Like Ohio manufacturers, ours have stayed open, building forklifts, spinning wire rope, and so on. The WalMart isn’t 24 hours any more, but nobody in the bakery or deli got canned and they’ve hired a bunch of people. The Ace hardware stayed open. My friends at the Valvoline are all still working there. The health food store is still open, and seems to have picked up customers who want to shop around less people.

        Surprisingly, our independent book store is open on reduced hours, with only one browser permitted at a time, and apparrently doing fine. All the professors are still getting paid ~$70k/yr, and I believe they do buy books. Primary school teachers have done car parades past their homebound students’ houses. Gas stations are open. Tourism at the Amish Store seems more than last year, maskless RVers and such. Can’t report on our artisan and craftsman economy, but the town did just print and hang a banner over the main street that they are open.

        I listen to a radio station that has replaced high school sports reporting with interviews with high school athletes, and added programs where a county youth librarian reads a choose your own adventure book (you can text them to pick what to do!) and old Kentucky folklore books. Trade remains brisk on the tradeo on your radio show, where people call in to buy and sell shotguns, truck parts, furniture, saddle mares, children’s clothes, and part-time services. Live music is often now for an audience of two and a radio listening audience. Our many, many yardsales are back. My church is online-only, but many meet in the parking lot or in person, and one or two have gone on the radio.

        Bank clerks I know were overwhelmed with PPP loans (more than 10 a day at peak), but that’s over. Drive thrus for fast food, cigarettes, and prescription meds are getting customers. We have a local cab/medical transportation company, and they’re still out and about. I’m pretty sure we don’t have any Lyft, Uber, Doordash, or Grubhub in town. I don’t think any restaurants are delivering that didn’t used to, but one did free delivery briefly when they first closed their dining room. We had covid testing in a tent in the walmart parking lot briefly, but I don’t think it was ever staffed. Hospital furloughed a lot of people for a while. Lots of us don’t work in town, but drive to Lexington, etc. to work in hospitals, nursing homes, and Lexington’s psych hospitals (which chugged along just fine). Same with home health care.

        Lots of 4 wheelers were bought for kids with trump bucks and now sit abandoned in back yards. Private student loan servicers are issuing summons to court. All the union electricians and small contractors/builders have been unemployed or very short on clients for months. Shade tree mechanics are flipping trucks and fixing weedeaters. Some people got out of overcrowded jails early. The state police have a new “blue lights across the bluegrass” campaign againt speeding. New businesses: deep cleaning, and two booths in the walmart parking lot: one sells MAGA and Punisher flags and swag, one sells homemade masks. We were 30% below the poverty line before this hit.

        1. boots

          I should note that due to the college, manufacturing, and Wal-Mart, we are much more prosperous than surrounding counties to the east, west, and south. People commute 3 hours each way from Clay County to work at the Hitachi factory (which starts at $9/hr). Might also note that at least 5 friends of mine have relapsed and three died of overdoses. But in general, we’re alright. That extra $600/week was real nice for a lot of people I know, and my rent wasn’t raised.

          1. 430 MLK

            What radio station reads the folklore books? I’ll have to put it on my memory dial. In Lexington, the big runs have been on canoes/kayaks and bikes rather than 4-wheelers.

              1. boots

                Ed beat me to it. WSKV (Pickup Country) broadcasts out of Stanton and Irvine.

                Together with the Steam Engine Session Room, they’re trying to help keep the local music scene alive (home of Senora May, Tyler Childers, Melody Youngblood, and many more), keep sportscasters employed and keep Estill County Engineers somehow on the radar of college sports recruiters, despite everything. The Red Barn Radio show and the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour are still paying musicians too. Sometimes local radio is just heroic.

  5. ACF

    I live where some of New York City fled, and businesses that their money supports seem to be doing OK for now. We got to summer level population early but our summer peak population has never arrived because our hotels, B&Bs, vacation rentals are either empty or are doing longer rentals. So we got more demand early, less demand overall.

    real estate for those who can get or don’t need mortgages is very hot, restaurants seem to be surviving even though there is very little indoor dining, it’s outdoors, lots of takeout. Hours are shorter.

    Supermarkets and convenience stores and gas stations are fine.

    The food bank need has exploded.

    Some small retail has closed— most retail is small, we have no real chains in my town with the exception of two chain pharmacies, hardware stores in the true value family, cell phone stores, and one McDonald’s. But some small retail seems OK.

    Some businesses like the wineries and the farms it’s very hard to know, except that business is way down at the wineries, and the traffic that can happen at some of the farm stands hasn’t happened. I don’t know how the gyms/fitness centers/yoga studios are, don’t know how many of them will survive. I haven’t even checked if the place I used to do hot yoga is open.

    The big chain retail in the next town over is largely OK except for the chains going out of business nationally.

    If all the fleeing New York City people stay for real then segments of the local economy will have received a real boost. If they leave this fall or winter the next shoe will drop.

    Landscapers construction skilled trades all seem OK as they have the demand of not just the locals but also the New York City transplants

    Hair salons, spas and nail salons have reopened I don’t know how they are doing. I still have Covid hair but I’m contemplating getting my nails done next week. I still have a real aversion to sitting still indoors other than in my own house for any real stretch of time.

    A different issue will be the impact of the increase in year-round population— if the summer people really really stay—on our water supply and septic loading. One town over had to put in water conservation measures because of the population spike.

  6. Eureka Springs

    What’s funny to me is how little I know these days. Living outside of Eureka Springs, a small tourist town, most of my city friends are in contact with tourists for work so I avoid contact with them because I can. What little contact I’ve had I can see economic fear in their eyes and hear it in their voices even when the subject matter is casual. At some point I’m going to have to find a couple z packs on the dark web or somewhere and just get exposure over with. Imo, antibiotics are what should be in every citizens mailbox along with masks these days. Last time I had restaurant food was late Feb. Lots of people who have returned to work are lucky if their hours total half of the norm for this time of year – peak season. In nearly forty years in the area I have never seen the real estate market this tight. Prices seem ridiculously high to put it mildly and the number of listings on Zillow are low in the extreme.

    1. Stephen V.

      The world in a grain of sand down the road in F’ville from you ES: The owner of a local restaurant & bar posted this to a local newsblog:
      As a matter of fact, before COVID, we were operating at an all time high!
      Our Landlord, Newmark MosesTucker refused to renew our lease, would have ended on Dec 31 this year. Then they also refused any rent reduction OR deferral to get us reopen until then. Since we could not have reopened the Club Lush half of our business anyway, we decided to close now and liquidate rather than at the end of the year.
      VERY unusual to see the Landlord named although that is my first question when I see a restaurant “failure.” Then there is THIS from Newmark’s website:
      We are a dynamic commercial, residential, and development real estate company uniquely different than all others in Arkansas. Our passion is building a wonderful, livable state that truly sets us apart.
      No problem here!

    2. edmondo

      Lots of people who have returned to work are lucky if their hours total half of the norm for this time of year

      There’s tons of that here in Southern AZ as well, stores that were open 24hours or 6am to midnite now close at 9pm, sometimes 6pm. If people are “going back to work” it’s a reduced schedule. There’s just no need to hire a full staff if your business hours are cut to the bone. Our Number One employer here in Pima County is the University of Arizona. Other than the foreign student broohaha started by out illustrious president, there aren’t going to be in-house classes so losing 46,000 students will be the end of the line for any locally owned businesses serving that demographic. The loss of the college sports season will have a dire economic impact on our local area. I don’t think that anyone here thinks that things are going to get much worse. I think that they are wrong.

      1. ambrit

        Good catch about the in person sports season “ripple effect” on the local economy. I have met a few people over the past few years who are the epitome of the “precariat.” One or two depended on ultra gig jobs working in the local University stadium during the college, and some high school, football seasons. The same went for baseball; we have a very nice small baseball stadium at the State University. Now these people will be toppling over the edge into destitution. What are they to do? Go die? That demographic is a near future wave of civic disturbance building up to crash down on the Midds and PMCs of the town.

      2. Tucson

        Regarding the university, the current plan is to begin on August 24 with most classes online, then have small classes begin in person the following week, with most classes meeting in person at least part of the time after Labor Day. As the parents of a UA senior who is a full-time Tucsonan, it is very confusing, but certainly much more so for out of the area students and their folks. Three of our son’s five professors are already going full online, and a fourth will allow students to take his course online if they want. Still waiting to hear from the fifth one. The infection spread in the Tucson area, very severe not long ago, is moderating, but how having all these students here in a few weeks will work is anybody’s guess. I think edmondo could be right in the long run — all online classes before too long as the on campus student population proves to be infection city.

        That will be a big hit to the local economy. We don’t go into too many stores, just the ones who comply well with the local mask ordinance. Other than restaurants, bars, and gyms, most things seem to be open, but I can’t say as to cutbacks in hours. We hit the stores first thing in the morning, and get the hell out of there.

  7. carl

    Here is an article from a local online paper on how badly our downtown businesses are doing.
    San Antonio has always been heavily dependent on tourist and convention trade, and so naturally that business has disappeared. Many businesses are closed; those who are open are seeing sales declines of 80-90%. Unlike in some EU countries, there’s very little safety nets here. Pretty much a grand depression, is what it looks like.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      yeah. Tourism will save us has been the mantra even way out here forever.
      I’m in Mason, which is about 100(?) miles northwest of san antone.
      when the peanut program went away, late 90’s, deer hunting and wine and really pretentious B&B’s became the main “industry”.(but 4 largest employers are school, city, county and highway dept)
      the Square is populated with a bunch of upscale junk shops and dress boutiques that few locals can afford(or want) to shop in.
      these places are still open, but it’s hardly an Indicator, since the proprietors are all pretty well off to begin with.
      Bow Season starts in October…dove is sometime before that…and Deer Season Proper is the beginning of November. Those 3 months will determine a lot out here.
      right now is usually when we start seeing hunters and guides setting up feeders and chasing the snakes out of rv’s and cabins littered through the woods.
      so far, I’ve seen little such activity…but I get out in the world even less than i did before all this.

      in our twice a month forays to san antonio, we pretty much stay around the medical center area(Fredericksburg Road and Huebner).
      from the car, it almost looks normal…but the parking lots are all but empty, and the homeless people have apparently disappeared from that part of town(could be an artifact of twice a month, limited and random driving around, idk…but i noticed their absence on my usual routes)

      Highway traffic way out here is mostly big trucks and people moving(judging by the furniture, etc) and contractor types(electricians, HVAC)…but even this is just random observations whenever i have to leave the farm, as well as when we occasionally go and sit and look at the highway(it’s a thing,lol)
      if we didn’t have internet or sattv, it would be really easy to be unaware of what’s happening out there.
      and in fact, that’s exactly what i’ve done for the last week.

  8. carl

    Adding: I know of at least ten yoga studios that have closed. Our massive convention center, as well as two stadiums/colosseums, are now white elephants. Some restaurants are open for in house dining, while others have gone to a takeout only model; my sense is that the popular ones will survive, but maybe not many of the others.

    1. John Wright

      I have observed the death of a Denny’s restaurant in somewhat slow motion here in Sonoma County.

      It closed and did not attempt to do “take out only”, as far as I know.

      Then the site simply started to decline as weeds grew and the building looked shabbier.

      The “Denny’s” sign was removed from the top of the restaurant (but the recognizable outline remains).

      The same happened to the larger sign on a tall post that could be seen from the 101 freeway.

      Maybe this could be re-awakened, but the sign removal does not lead one to believe it will be anytime soon.

  9. Carolina wren

    I’ll echo others’ observations: I’m in the western North Carolina mountain region, and the haves/have nots divide seems ever starker. Real estate market is hot, mortgages are easy to come by if you have reliable income. If not, too bad, you should fix that.

    Some restaurants reopen. I see more ‘for rent/lease/sale’ signs than a year ago but not a ton. I definitely see a lot more people panhandling at intersections. Some friends are afraid to give to people asking for money at intersections having heard they might not be so needy really. While I agree that not all who panhandle are in true need, I definitely see desperation and depression in the eyes of the people on the corners, and I see them on a lot of corners. This is mostly in Asheville.

    What else? Lots of Trump flags and banners adorning pickups, and no Biden signs/stickers in what was a Bernie stronghold. I actually haven’t seen many Trump bumper stickers – they’re all large flags and banners.

    A huge lesson I learned through this website and others after 2008 was how unaware and uncaring people in the haves are of the have-not group. It’s like the haves never believe they could experience a large fall from grace. Then when they do and their income drops 80% and never recovers, they start to see things differently, but then they’re not part of the haves anymore, so… they don’t matter as much. I see little besides occasional pity from many well-off people.

    I’m trying to buy land. I have been for a couple years, but what I want has been difficult to find. Now I feel torn – it seems like the time for stability and investing in place, but I’ve studied my Jared Diamond and Chomsky and Chris Hedges and so on, and the US ain’t where I would choose to live if I weren’t already here. The writing on the wall seems clear and not good, but it’s hard to know how to respond.

    1. LawnDart

      …the US ain’t where I would choose to live if I weren’t already here. The writing on the wall seems clear and not good, but it’s hard to know how to respond.

      Well, if this pandemic settles down to the point that more borders reopen to USAins, it may be best to consider this round a warning, one well worth listening too.

      I think Obama set the tone with Occupy: peaceful movements for change will not be tolerated. And that really doesn’t leave much hope for a non-violent restoration of at least a semblance of a representative republic in this part of the world.

      Personally, I’m looking to go far, far away, to live the remainder of my life in relative peace, as soon as I have or can make the opportunity to do so.

      1. bob

        “Well, if this pandemic settles down to the point that more borders reopen to USAins”

        We have states trying to set up borders. How about being able to leave your state? And go where?

        I think the only thing stopping some states from erecting hard borders are the insane levels of corruption and incompetence. They couldn’t do it if they tried. But they really, really want to…

        1. LawnDart

          Professionally, I’m pretty sure that I am protected under the Interstate Commerce Clause and by the nature of my profession (I deal with garbage, thus, unless we as a society want to deal with a whole host of nasty diseases, from plague to typhus in addition to Covid-19, I suppose that might make me an essential worker). Such is my lot now, until I split for good.

          The world is still a big and beautiful place: I’ve had the incredible fortune to travel to over 40 countries, to stay for hours, days, and weeks, and to meet amazing people and talk about life– from a beautiful French whore who bought me a few beers (I lacked the money to partake in her services– this I let her know when she propositioned me… …honestly, I really wish I had the cash!) just so she could talk to someone (i.e., vent), to a drunk and raging African ex-heavyweight boxer, to a Flemish concert promoter and to Asian communist rebels (who also bought me beer, and let me live because I wasn’t looking for a whore). I’ve wandered slums in Asia, South America, but none so hopeless and depressing as those found in the USA. In these years, I’ve found and squandered opportunities in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. But not next time, should I recognize the moment when it comes.

          Most American politicians are especially full of sh0t, especially when compared to the breed in general: their rhetoric is seldom matched by actions. I’ve been on the road for the past 5-months, crossing state-lines daily, weekly. I haven’t been hassled or questioned yet. It’ll be pretty interesting if someone under the color of law tries to jack me up: I’ll roll with it and put in a request to the warden for a bag of popcorn while I watch it all play out.

          So bob, it all kinda comes down to that “forest through the trees” thing, I think. To me, the pols can all get fuc!@d, unless I don’t move quickly enough. In that case, I’m the one who’s gonna be F–ed. But I suppose that I will at least be in very good company.

          1. JBird4049

            The reason that Americans are feeling hopeless is because those same politicians and their corporate owners have broken all the bones of our society to extract the last the marrow after eating the muscle and organs.

            The scaffolding that the people uses to connect with, build, and create no longer exist. Even many of the religious institutions are corrupted by neoliberalism and the prosperity gospel or like the Catholic Church just going to the darkness.

            I agree that the states can not stop anyone from moving from state to state as it’s said in the Constitution. They can, however, put anyone into quarantine. At least in the past, civil rights really did not enter the discussion. That requires a functioning government of course, which many states appear to lack.

  10. ambrit

    Checking in from the Gulf Coast region.
    The small businesses that haven’t gone for good are barely hanging on. Except for the thrift stores, foot traffic I have seen inside small retail venues is noticeably down. I find it interesting to see the thrift stores doing about as well as they did in pre-covid times. People are searching for bargains.
    The Universities are supposed to reopen this month. Several of the college student rental houses near us are being spruced up and I’m seeing people move into them. A neighbour works for a Cable giant as a lineman, installation tech, and repairman and says that their business is booming. He just bought a jet ski boat! (“I’m getting lots of overtime.”)
    The Bigg Boxx stores are doing business as usual. Since the local City Council reacted to the pandemic early, and haven’t slacked off yet, masks and limits to occupancy are the norm in retail businesses.
    This weekend the middle daughter and the grandchildren came over for a visit. She has bought a townhouse condo to live in after the divorce. This happened just before the Dreaded Pathogen showed up. This unit is one of a row of a dozen units. There are two rows like this in the centre of a light industrial, office, medical office zone. Daughter related how the owner/investors of the second row of condos are now only accepting all cash offers for their units. No mortgages or other sorts of notes wanted. Housing prices have not come down, either there or here, yet.
    Daughter goes back to work in the mid sized school district this week. The children are returning in staggered shifts mixed with “home learning.”
    Ex-son in law is being called back to the office later this month. He was told to expect several overseas trips to trouble shoot projects. This had been held off on during the “worst of the pandemic.”
    Counter intuitively, utility prices continue to rise. The water and sewer bill rises were baked in after the consent decree with the Feds to upgrade the city waste treatment plant. Other increases, such as in the cable internet bill look to be simple rent seeking on the part of the companies involved.
    Prices for staple items have shown a small but noticeable increase. Nothing outrageous yet, but we will “watch this space.”

  11. doug

    We are seeing a bit of ‘creative destruction’ around my small town. Unlike the national ‘too big to fail’ scene, many small businesses have closed up. Several restaurants are moving to ‘new to them’ locations where others have failed. More have closed than have moved/opened for sure. Food trucks are on the increase.

    This is a touristy town in NC with golf as main attraction. Slow going so far. Many retirees are not going out.

    1. L

      Mixed bag here. We have stable businesses that are keeping people employed working from home and the big box chains are doing good, some of them great. But at the same time smaller businesses are in stasis. A lot of the smaller ones around me are restaurants that cater to students at the school or casual dining. The ones that have outdoor seating are able to operate but are still well below regular traffic. The ones that have indoor seating and mostly cater to students shut down last spring and haven’t opened their doors since.

      Our problem frankly is that we have two responses and a paralyzed state. Here where I am mask use is now approaching 85-95-% but only because the big box places started providing them for free. But in some of our neighboring counties noone is enforcing the order and social pressure is discouraging it so the virus keeps spreading. State government is split between people who want to restrict more and people who wanted to make masks illegal (not making the ban illegal, making the masks illegal) and who planned to sue to force all schools to open full time with mandatory face to face instruction. At the same time the police have declined to fine bar owners who open despite the ban.

      So we are basically stuck in a holding pattern, not killing the virus enough to be safe, and not changing our policies enough to get out of the hole.

      1. JBird4049

        Why in the everlasting f*** are some trying to get masks banned or just not worn? Do they have a death wish or just an aversion to reality?

        Seriously, between the news, the blogs, and the obituaries it would seem impossible to deny this.

  12. Mark

    Melbourne, Australia. We’ve gone just heading into the countries strongest lockdown since the start of the pandemic.

    Australia as a whole has been doing pretty well in comparison, both on the virus front and the small business front. Our government support has to keep such small businesses on life support has been reasonably good, not necessarily well targeted but enough to keep small business ticking along.

    Our big time bomb is our property bubble, it was there prior to Covid. Now not only does it face depression levels of unemployment it has been exacerbated by decreased demand for housing stock due a significant temporary immigrant population leaving the country (mostly students). It still hasn’t reached mainstream news properly, but the warning signs are all there. Once the implosion starts it will be ugly. People will lose their assets, banks will struggle and the very large construction sector will grind to a halt (that has already started).

    I’m in the construction industry but thankfully we deal with food companies, so we are looking pretty safe at the moment.

  13. Tom Stone

    I live near Sebastopol CA which is heavily tourist dependent.
    Our one used bookstore is gone for good, most of the restaurants in town lacked outdoor dining space and are going or gone.
    Curbside service isn’t enough, most are gone for good.
    Groceries and coffee shops with outdoor seating are doing well, all the rest of retail is in bad shape and there were a lot of small businesses catering to the tourist trade as well as locals.
    Construction and remodelling is going great guns, crews are working 7 days a week.
    Real Estate? I’m not watching it as closely as I did because I have a compromised immune system due to chemo, inventory is low and nice properties either in good neighborhoods or country properties are selling in days for a premium, 9-10 offers are not uncommon.
    Vacation rentals are busy, about half the normal supply because many owners don’t want potential plague carriers in their properties, those that are available are booked solid through August.
    I pass three vacation rentals on my daily walk, none of them are complying with local rules which require them to be cleaned to CDC standards and left empty for 3 days between groups of guests.
    License plates from Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Jersey, New York, Minnesota and Alaska.
    There’s nothin’ but blue skies and hard times ahead…maybe a few wildfires too.

  14. Arizona Slim

    Sad news from Tucson.

    The restaurant where I hosted the NC meetups has been boarded up since late May. I don’t know if the windows were broken during the protests on 4th Avenue, or if the owners installed the boards in hopes of fending off damage.

    A few weeks ago, I noticed that the board-up began sporting a mural. Nice mural, but it does make me wonder if this restaurant will ever reopen.

    1. Randy G

      Arizona Slim —

      Sorry I was not here to attend one of those NC meetups! Now the meetups may have gone the way of the Hula Hoop. (Maybe time to bring the hoops back with all the gyms closed….)

      My 1-year lease is up on the house here in Tucson and I’m hoping to move again. What seemed like an interesting central neighborhood has turned out to be very noisy–and with some obnoxious neighbors to boot.

      Looking to reshuffle the deck and maybe try Albuquerque for a year; no reason to expect better cards, could easily be worse. But a reshuffle is worth a try. Colder winters at the higher elevation but milder summers. (My dogs are onboard with that.)

      Right now very murky what the rental prospects are as everything could change quickly and dramatically. Mass evictions? Depression?

      Currently, it seems as if there are fewer large houses on the rental market compared to last summer — at least where I’m looking. (People are complaining on Reddit that it is tough to find large rental houses in Albuquerque/Rio Rancho — as there’s a shortage and they rent quickly.)

      1. Arizona Slim

        Noisy and obnoxious neighbors? Randy, that sounds a lot like the people who live right around the Arizona Slim Ranch.

  15. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    I thought someone else would have chimed in about Portland OR. The NY Times for some reason fell in love with Portland begining in the 90s and what was a funky small city with a nascent tech boom full of foodies and would-be hippies and communist revolutionaries suddenly was hit with the outflow from places like Frisco or San Diego where thousands were fleeing after the double whammy of Dot-Bomb and 2007/8. They were selling their 3 vastly overpriced homes in Cali and coming up here. Kind of like how American expat retirees sell their home in Chicago and move to Costa Rica. The locals cannot keep up with the sudden localized inflation. A slice of pizza to go went in 5 years from $1.75 to $7. Froofy little geegaw shops popped up everywhere. Restauranteurs hoping to be noticed by the NYTimes set up on every corner. The wave seems to be rapidly receding. Not to go full Kunstler, but some of these real estate pigs may have to learn how to talk to the neighbors in a less than condescending tone.

    1. anon in so cal

      >Always appreciated Portland, and Oregon. Those beautiful Hemlock trees, starting right around the airport terminal, were reason enough to visit. Last year, descending into PDX, it seemed we were about to land on the roof of a giant IKEA–somehow symbolizes everything that went wrong.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      “Froofy little geegaw shops”
      like the harbingers of doom, right there.
      fully a third of the bidness on the Square is like that.
      built/hatched to cater to the wives of hunters, initially…I’ve never understood how they could stay open, pre-pandemic.

  16. michael

    The problem is not only in New York City, or even in the US.
    My German publisher Klett-Cotta tells me that cash flow for all the German publishers has plunged as book stores shut down. (My books were even available at airport bookstores, one Assyriologist told me — my idea of the kind of success that academic books would never have.)
    So there are many sectors and types of business that are shaken up, not only restaurants and small grocery stores.
    Here in Forest Hills, lines are 90 minutes to get into Trader Joe’s

  17. Victoria

    My NY state county is still semi rural. Small livestock producers are under stress because of the lack of meat “processing” capacity, and many craft beer places (our local attraction) are gone, which means the brewers are also likely closing. We are an aging county that has struggled to attract young families and it’s hard to say if the urban virus exodus plus relatively low real estate prices will overcome the collapse of local businesses.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      that lack of small, local meat processing is gonna bite us in the behind, I’m afraid.
      the regs and insurance and such made it all but impossible to open or maintain that kind of local capacity…even if there had been enough of a market for those services(how many even wanted to raise their own beef,ere covid? Meat comes from the store)

  18. Carolinian

    I only know of one small business type restaurant that has closed–complaining that the downtown rent was too high. In fact many of our small businesses are clustered in our wanna be New Urbanist downtown and doubtless some were struggling even before Covid. The city did close the downtown traffic square to cars so restaurants could move their tables and service out onto the sidewalks and streets. This has allegedly been a success with not much rain this summer to interfere.

    The rest of our retail landscape consists of the usual strip malls and national chain stores. These seem to be hanging in…so far.

  19. tegnost

    Hot real estate in the san juan islands…Air bnbs booked through summer (cancellations rebooked is the host on the street report) Covid cases rising, slowly.

  20. Spreadsheet Jockey

    I work in a Financial Institution in a medium sized Tennessee city. So far our commercial portfolio is doing alright, but it has ballooned on account of PPP. That said, looking under the hood, there have been some renegotiations on debt terms.

    Speaking as a resident, there have been a few closures of food service, personal services, and hospitality, but so far none in the manufacturing or professional services that I am aware of. As for food service, traffic is solid unless it’s an establishment that relied on live music. Those are all but dead. One of the alarming trends I see is the divergence between “honest” bars/restaurants and “dishonest” ones. There are a few locations that regularly close down for a few days to perform a deep clean whenever a positive COVID case is identified. At the same time there are a number of places with much higher traffic that NEVER close. It’s simply impossible these places never encounter a confirmed case.

    Being home to one of the two TVA headquarters, I’m curious to see what the recent moves by Trump in removing the Board Chair will have. One of our audit committee members is a upper mid-level admin in TVA, I’ll try to pick around for some thoughts on what impact these moves will have.

  21. CletracSteve

    Anecdotal only: Wife and I went to a furniture close-out and talked with an employee. The local furniture chain went bankrupt and a clearance seller bought the remaining inventory and is liquidating it. The ‘clearance’ prices seemed higher than they would have been on the original sales room floor. She said that business was brisk: Stores are out of lock-down and people have pent-up buying desire, however the supply chain for furniture parts and fabric is broken so that special orders are delayed so only furniture available in the near-term is what’s in stock. So, this sounds good for an immediate sales boost but not good in the long run. We’re price conscious so left without buying anything.

  22. kareninca

    It looks pretty bad here in Silicon Valley in the Palo Alto area. I drive up and down El Camino every day to Mountain view and there are a lot of empty store fronts for lease. But the traffic is back, or at any rate it is heavy again. And I drove through the Stanford shopping center on Saturday and it was absolutely jammed. This area has so much money and so much population density that I think things will fill up again. The awful part is how many people’s financial lives this has destroyed, maybe not to be recouped.

    1. John Wright

      Are there still the large numbers of RV’s (Recreational Vehicles) parked on El Camino adjacent to the Stanford Campus?

      I was led to believe the RV residents were not tourists, but lower wage workers.

      I saw the RV’s several years ago when times were better, and I’d imagine the demand for low cost housing in Palo Alto is higher now.

      1. kareninca

        Yes, the RVs are still lining El Camino. When my father-in-law moved out here to live with us four years ago, there were loads of them. I explained to him that no, they were not occupied by vacationers. Over the past four years, the number has grown and grown and grown.

        But actually – the peak number was just before the pandemic hit. There are still a lot, but not quite so many. That, I think, is because the occupants are all (or almost all) employed. Their jobs are now gone, if they worked in a restaurant or a gym or a salon. So if you are no longer near your job, there is no advantage to living in this area. A lot of the people in the RVs had other homes elsewhere e.g. in the central valley; they came out during the week to work here but couldn’t afford rent. Of course some had/have no other homes. These vehicles are occupied by functional people. People who are a mess in one way or another tend to live in their car instead.

        I have a homeless friend who lives in her car; I don’t know where she is now. The state is giving hotel rooms to the homeless and I have some reason to think she is now in one. So some few good things are coming of this.

  23. William Hunter Duncan

    Mine is about as small a business as it gets. I am a builder/remodeler doing less than $40,000 of business in Minneapolis. My work has dropped off by 75% since mid March. No PPP option because I don’t do payroll. MN unemployment, though I have filed taxes as self-employed in MN for the last four years, does not acknowledge I have made any money since 2013, the last time I was an employee of someone else – so no unemployment for me. Every few weeks they send me a different version of the same paperwork I have filled out four times. The website is laughable.

    I’ve decided to try to sell my house, twenty fruit trees and 200 species of plants, to move back to the rural area where I was born, where a lot of money seems to be retreating, where I suspect my skills will be more rare and more in demand. I’m beginning to suspect I can make more money with less liabilities. Life in this city has become so complex and so very expensive, and yet for someone like me, something like gate-kept such that one has to really fight for the scraps left by more established builder/remodelers.

    We will see.

  24. Blue Pilgrim

    “Radical shift in COVID-19 testing needed to reopen schools and businesses, researchers say
    By Robert F. ServiceAug. 3, 2020 , 5:55 PM

    Even as the United States ramped up coronavirus testing from about 100,000 per week in mid-March to more than 5 million per week in late July, the country fell further behind in stemming the spread of the virus. Now, diagnostics experts, public health officials, and epidemiologists are calling for a radical shift in testing strategy: away from diagnosing people who have symptoms or were exposed and toward screening whole populations using faster, cheaper, sometimes less accurate tests. By making it possible to identify and isolate infected individuals more quickly, proponents say, the shift would slow the virus’ spread, key to safely reopening schools, factories, and offices. […]”

    Also see TWiV 640: Test often, fast turnaround, with Michael Mina
    July 16, 2020
    Michael Mina joins TWiV to reveal why frequent and rapid SARS-CoV-2 testing is more important than accuracy, how a daily $1 rapid test could control the pandemic, and why group testing works.

  25. Wyoming

    Prescott, AZ. The economy is struggling a bit with many small businesses/restaurants closing and overall economic activity down. But not all that bad considering we are just coming off the peak of the first wave of Covid. A good 50% of the population ignores all masks and distancing guidance. How that works out in the long run we will see…..

    What we are NOT seeing is a big dip in the housing market. What is happening here fits well with the theme that many will exfil from the cities and take up working from home and that can be done anywhere (a number of the new neighbors fit this scenario). Couple that with the fact that our area is a favorite retirement location for many from California and other places scattered around the West. The new housing market is going very well and the contractors are fully busy. Existing homes have not dropped significantly in value and are not staying on the market long. New homes are mostly all sold before they break ground. And this is an area that many like to have a 2nd home in so that market does not seem to have died either. How long this lasts is tbd.

  26. Wellstone's Ghost

    Here in Seattle the summer has been a bust for the downtown area specifically, the outer neighborhoods are doing a little better, but nowhere near as good as before.
    A lot of restaurants have switched their business model to the to-go format with reduced hours.
    The new restaurant business model seems to be two people on staff. One up front and one in the kitchen. One business owner told me she really didn’t mind the reduced overhead and shortened hours. She said she is making the same money personally as before(she ain’t rich). Unfortunately all that labor overhead reduction means unemployed people.
    Seattle went all in on tourism (and Amazon). The tourism trade has imploded. Major downtown hotels are at 5% occupancy on a good day. Conventions and trade shows are gone, so are the cruise ships and people passing through to Canada or elsewhere. This is huge money.
    The Fall season will only be worse.
    Regarding Amazon, they took over the South Lake Union neighborhood which buttresses downtown to the north side and have implemented work from home for the majority of their staff for the rest of the year and into next year. All the street level retail in the area are suffering huge losses because of this. Many will not survive.
    The local construction/remodel business is doing great as all the people who can work from home are making the switch to home office and home entertaining. Lots of additions and renovations can be seen in progress in the neighborhoods and the ubiquitous work vans/trucks.
    Real estate is as expensive as it has ever been. Working from home has contributed to this hugely. People who had settled on an apartment or condominium are craving more space. I don’t think this stops any time soon for people who can afford it.
    I’d get into Boeing, but why bother.
    Overall, restaurants and bars have suffered long term damage and will be in decline for several years. The economy is transitioning to a work from home model in this tech-centric city for better or worse.
    The Matrix has arrived.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      “The local construction/remodel business is doing great as all the people who can work from home are making the switch to home office and home entertaining. Lots of additions and renovations can be seen in progress in the neighborhoods and the ubiquitous work vans/trucks.”

      That explains the 1/3 of traffic, both here and in san antonio, being contractor trucks.
      it also explains why it took almost 5 months to get enough lumber for the roof of the cabin we started in February for eventual refugees from Houston and/or Farm Hands escaping our one little town(where the high rents haven’t budged)
      hardware lady says she’s having difficulty getting even common things like 2×4 studs. But she’s at the very end of the supply line, like every other business out here that deals with real goods.

  27. Paul Harvey 0swald

    I’m not sure I have much to add here. An anecdote regardless. We decided to have a patio put in our back yard on the east side of Madison, WI. We decided over the winter. In January and February we went to a couple of home shows on a vendor shopping trip. Most of the landscape companies we talked with said they could start in September or October. (In their defense it was because of heavy rains from last fall, and they couldn’t finish those jobs. They were already behind.) We got lucky and found a landscaping company that could start in June. They were also heavily — if not entirely — focused on native landscaping (also our preference.) The patio would be made from locally quarried stone. Everything lined up. Then they kind of ghosted — concurrent with COVID and the shutdown. They had our substantial deposit, but they were not responding to repeated attempts to set up a specific date. Eventually they came back with “in June”. A couple weeks in to June and still not a peep from them. Unfortunately, dear reader, this is not a tale of woe. They did show and we got our patio and retaining wall. Fine and fine, but we also were interested in a rain garden, and a small pond on top of that. They were busy at the moment, but could probably get those done over the summer. Well, it’s August now, and they don’t respond to our messages. Through a back channel we discovered a small (two women) landscaping outfit that was just starting up. We met with them, and to our great surprise they had just quit the landscaping outfit that we were trying to nail down. So, what was the deal? They were overwhelmed with work over there. Absolutely jammed. So, we are working with these two women, landscaping the back yard ourselves. We’re taking a stab at the rain garden ourselves, but the pond is beyond my pay grade. If the original outfit shows up, fine, we’ll hire them to finish it up. In the meantime we’re forging ahead.

    Having said all that… I can tell you that I am a direct recipient of PPP money. I work at a small company (four employees, including the owner). We shut down entirely for 9 weeks. The boss told us to not worry, he will pay our normal salary. (Not hourly. We’re, ahem, professionals.) Well, that was a struggle… until PPP showed up. Before that he said that he was pretty sure he could make payroll until the end of the year. After that is questionable. And this is his only gig, too. So he’s in the same situation as me. I read stories about PPP grifting — and it surely is happening — but it saved this business.

    Earlier I mentioned the east side of Madison. Construction here is booming. I don’t know anything about the business of rentals and condos, but these had to be in the works months or years ago. But they are not stopping, so…? I saw a new residential building site yesterday — after COVID. After years of the west side ruling the roost, my take is millennials are in no way interested in living in a sea of Karens on the west side, and are setting up over here. Plus, the isthmus is a 15 minute bike ride from here. You can’t really get there from there.

    1. rd

      Probably developers building with the banks money. I have seen it happen in economic collapses where unemployment in the city is above 10% but buildings started before the recession are still being completed and then sit vacant for quite a while. The big indicator of resurgence is when new construction starts because the banks won’t release money for that until they are sure there is a market.

  28. bigcheese

    Logan Utah home to Utah State seems mostly ok thus far. Real estate is much too high and rising, and construction has been unfazed. Plumbers will not call back if it is a small job, and the roofing company I hired was 2 months out.
    That said, the bar is kind of dead, and the upscale eateries too.

    A lot of food production happens here and they are quite busy, although the cheese plant here slowed down a little when California re closed indoor dining.

    The college kids are trickling in, and will likely cause a spike. My tenants are college kids and they have outdoor parties of 7 or 8 frequently and no one wears masks. They will fit right in with the half of the population here who think covid isn’t real and is just a ploy to prevent Trumps reelection. The other half are transplants and are rightfully scared about a big increase in cases with college and k-12 reopening.

    600 extra per week for the unemployed goes along way here. In fact, most recipients were making at least double there normal wage.Hopefully they were smart enough to tuck some away.
    I calculate that working 60 hrs per week at 22.50 with over time etc, puts me at about the same take home pay as most of the unemployed.

    I don’t spend anymore, and am worried about what a year from now will bring. I was all for the extra 600 per week to begin with, but now I think people will have to reckon with the fact that they will need to down grade their expectations if they had good jobs, and I guess just be homeless or otherwise displaced if they had not coming back soon jobs. I do believe that the workers are kind of getting tired of no one trying to help them. A payroll tax cut just for the workers and not the employers might help, but doesn’t seem likely.

    I know I would be singing a different tune if I were unemployed. I don’t think there is a solution right now. Just getting tired of working so much while the unemployed gamble away on robinhood or day drink or whatever in the heck they are doing. Truth, the less people we have out and about the better, so I guess keep on pumping the money. Just do a little something for the workers too.

    1. nick

      If you begrudge the unemployed their benefits from UI, just remember your tenants and the income stream you make as a rentier rather than through your labor!

      1. edmondo

        I have no problem with unemployed workers receiving UI benefits. I have a real problem with subsidizing Uber and Lyft because they refuse to contribute to their employees’ benefits. It’s become hard to pay for WalMart’s employees food and medical costs while still covering Uber’s unemployment costs. These companies seem to have market valuation in the trillions. Maybe they should pay their bills.

  29. Wukchumni

    Only 3 of around a dozen car campgrounds are open in Sequoia NP, and Wuksachi lodge is quite spendy for an average motel room, so as a consequence the short term vacation rentals are booming, I just talked to a couple of owners and one is booked through February, if you can imagine. Another friend of a friend who cleans them told me that checkout is 11 am and rentals have to be vacated so they can be turned over @ 3 pm the same day, as noted by Tom Stone, nobody is following the CDC rules.

    The person doing cleaning has been doing it for years, and she told me an interesting thing, in that people seem oblivious to rules and acting decently, as opposed to in previous years.

    Little Three Rivers is more busy than I can remember on account of so few places you can go, with our National Parks being one of them.

    It’s largely people from LA, is the refrain I hear.

  30. A comment

    I am in London, where I think things are and will be worse than elsewhere in the UK for small businesses because of the dependence on commuters, office workers, and tourists, all of which have reduced by – well I would estimate, between 50 and 100% depending on exactly which. And in general closer to 100.

    Places are opening up again – cafes and restaurants, small retailers, but nowhere near their often jam-packed state. Tubes and trains are running at very low volumes. Many offices are mostly empty, with most working from home. Big construction projects are continuing, and didn’t stop at all. Smaller construction work has fluctuated but is picking up strongly. The commercial property sector looks to be facing the need for massive changes. I assume some will be converted to residential use.

  31. Paleobotanist

    Montreal here. The Legault and Trudeau governments have been competent unlike down south. We want the US border to stay closed. In fact, we’ll pay to put a wall up….;^) Many unemployed people qualify for $2000/month that just got extended again. Frighteningly there are many to rent signs (a louer) as small businesses go under in all neighborhoods except pricey snotty Westmount (rich Anglos). Official unemployment at 13%. Small businesses employ around 50% of the people so this is gonna hurt. All Montreal universities are on-line this fall, and we profs fear as well for winter, but we really have no choice. I could kill Zoom. The cats like Zoom bombing. Montrealers are rotten mask wearers. Masks mandatory on buses and metro. Most people comply except for middle aged white guys who seem to be giving the world a big family-blog. Little kids are hopeless, but little kids are little kids. Spousal unit and I are laying low but we’re high risk. Saving money. This is going to go on for a while.

    1. Ford Prefect

      We are testing to see if the Canadian border is actually closed. We are sending Isaias up I-87 from NYC to Montreal tonight.

  32. rd

    In Upstate NY, the stores etc. are pretty busy. Many small offices are open for business with a lower density of staff working in the office.

    Some restaurants are figuring out how to make a go. Gyms are simply closed. On the whole, people take this pretty seriously around here and the local governments come down like a ton of bricks on places that break the rules. So we have about 1% positivity rate in testing and not a lot of cases. If you look at the map in this interesting graphic, you will see a dark purple zone following I-90 from Lake Erie (Buffalo) to Boston. We live along that line and it shows in our case results:

    I am pretty frustrated at this point. More competence in governments in general with some research projects to evaluate things like ventilation and air filtration would be highly useful. We are seeing very little creativity by anybody but the Fed, and they aren’t actually tasked to be particularly creative.

    At this point, we should be trying some studies looking at restaurants etc. to see if simply installing several $200 HEPA air filters spaced through a restaurant would largely solve the customer density issue. If so, the government could provide guidance and a credit to restaurants, salons, etc. of something like $300 per 6-8 customer seats to install HEPA air filters and maintain them for a year along with some of the hygiene theater stuff. Because of the focus over the years on allergens, tobacco smoke, urban pollutants, etc., room-sized HEPA air purifiers are plentiful and inexpensive. They can be an important supplement to building HVAC systems that are often out-dated. That may be the way to get restaurants back up to two-thirds or three-quarters capacity where they could probably survive with some rent support from the government. This would be far cheaper than massive PPP and unemployment insurance bills.

    I doubt if it would be enough to let gyms operate if they are cramped, but it would probably work in a big space.

  33. Some Guy

    From a friend who does a lot of high-end real estate deals in Chicago:

    “Rumors are Chicago is quietly fielding offers for Soldiers Field & Midway Airport. Much of the Mag Mile is boarded up, so many restaurants, bars & many other business will never reopen. Crime downtown is out of control & going unreported, bonds are junk. City is in big trouble!”

  34. eg

    Burlington, Ontario, within the general orbit of Toronto as part of the Golden Horseshoe at the western edge of Lake Ontario, but technically outside the Greater Toronto Area. Like most of the province, we are now in week two of Phase 3 of a staged reopening after the lockdown that was imposed in March.

    Real Estate prices don’t appear to have been affected from what I see in the local paper and online despite the drop in volume of listings and sales during the lockdown.

    A couple of notable restaurant closures — places of long standing. My son’s gym just reopened last week, though he books in ahead of time and hasn’t encountered another patron during his workouts. Otherwise local traffic has returned to what I would describe as more ordinarily busy, so I infer more business activity. I went to a patio three times during Phase 2 and took the family out to dinner on one for the first time since March a couple of weeks ago. We are not interested in dining inside anytime soon, though we have been consciously making an effort to order takeout more often than we used to in an effort to support our local restaurants. Otherwise I restrict leaving my house for trips to the grocery store and liquor store. I’ve bought gas maybe three times since March.

    Federal income supports have been, in my opinion, very successful. My daughter didn’t make enough money last year to be eligible for the CERB, but has been collecting the CESB since graduating from high school in June. My fear is that the “austerian” narrative will grip our political discourse soon and that the income supports will be cut too much too soon and lead to an outright depression. My wife has already been retired for two years now, and I will be joining her in February, so what little exposure work might bring for me (right now we are working remotely) will be over soon.

    My neighbors speak openly with horror about what we see in the media concerning the progress of the pandemic in the US and the consensus is that we have no interest in seeing the border reopened anytime soon.

    Good granular data on infection rates and the like in map form here, broken down by postal code:

  35. Jeremy Grimm

    News from a small town at the Southern tail of NJ: I walked Mainstreet to see what I could see. It was hard to gauge how things stood. There were a lot of empty storefronts and for-lease and for-sale signs before Corona, but there did appear to be a few more. Many of the small shops were ‘open’ but with various restrictions. Some would meet you at the door — if you had a mask. Some would admit customers as long as they were masked. Some had phone numbers posted so a customer or client could call and make an appointment. I didn’t notice any great numbers of customers or clients.

    There were scattered pedestrians, mostly young mothers walking prams. Most people were wearing masks outside on the sidewalk. [I didn’t but did keep a distance from other people and didn’t enter any stores. There were breezes and I decided the mask was unnecessary. I did wash up and clean my sinuses with my neti pot when I got home.] The last few weeks I noticed an unusually large number of cars and 18-wheel trucks driving through town. I have no idea where they were headed.

    My impression was of many small business owners holding on with their nails in spite of greatly diminished income, still hopeful that somehow things would work out. My feeling is that the other shoe hasn’t dropped yet. Unless relief comes within the next few months I doubt many of the businesses I saw will still be there. A lot of them weren’t doing that well before Corona.

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