A black swan event.
We have all heard of it, but who could have imagined that the black swan would be a virus running amok, having graciously been given free airline tickets to a globally connected economy. Obviously, nobody saw this coming. On the plus side, we have learned new concepts — social distancing and flattening the curve to name the big ones.
We all hope that the economic lockdown will in fact flatten the curve and that the pandemic will quickly lose its momentum and fade away into obscurity. The problem is that flattening the curve, or at least attempting to, will most certainly flatten the economy, not just here in the United States, but globally.
The burdening of the flattening will almost certainly not be equally borne. We wondered about how an unemployment map might look if this lockdown lasts more than a few weeks. We would expect minimal job loss in certain occupations – management, technical and scientific positions, protective services, and materials transportation. But we expect massive job loss in retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. How does this look mapped out? Maps of major tourist destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando tell a very dismal story, as you might expect. But in other cities, the story is more mixed, and possibly more disturbing given the divisiveness that pervades our times.
In Los Angeles, the affluent west side and much of southern Orange county may have far less employment loss than much of the San Fernando valley, south-central, and the outer eastern suburbs of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
In the Washington DC area, the stability of federal government employment is obvious, with minimal job loss in most of DC and the northern Virginia and southern Maryland suburbs where so many government employees live.
A third pattern can be seen in the Bay area of California, where the high skilled technical jobs of Silicon Valley result in sharply different unemployment scenarios than in the east bay communities.
Finally, we looked at the New York metropolitan area. Not surprisingly, the effects in Manhattan are expected to be far less than in the more working-class areas of Brooklyn, Queen’s, and Staten Island.
Long after the virus has disappeared, the differential effects on individuals and communities will linger. We cannot help but notice that the patterns will certainly exacerbate the divisions which already are straining the fabric of our nation.
Let us all be united in doing our part by social distancing to flatten the viral curve and minimize the flattening of the economic curve and the massive human cost that will surely follow.