Recent surveys show that Americans are stressed and warn out by coronavirus stay-at-home orders. A survey by Kelton Global found that almost 75% of respondents would hit their “breaking point” if quarantine orders were extended into June. This was true even though Pew Research surveys show that a significant majority of Americans support shelter-in-place orders. The survey results’ combined meaning is plain: Americans are as anxious about reopening the country as they are about not reopening it.
But it is reopening. The industrial economy in the United States is sputtering back into operation, driven by economic demands as well as those who say the economic system at large cannot sustain such a long shutdown. Following concerns expressed by the CEO of Smithfield Foods, who worried publicly in a Washington Post ad that food chains in America are being strained to the breaking point by shutdowns of meat processing factories, President Trump announced today that he would order the plants to stay open. The President will also sign an executive order that will protect the companies from liability in case their employees catch the virus at work.
Caterpillar Reports Depressed Earnings
Caterpillar Inc., the Illinois-based manufacturer of farm equipment, reported its first-quarter earnings had taken a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. Sales of the company’s farm equipment fell to $10.6 billion for the first quarter of 2020, down 21% from the first quarter of 2019, when they were $13.5 billion. “We remain committed to the safety, health and well-being of our employees around the world,” said Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby. Read the full story here.
Ford also reported negative results today. The Dearborne, Michigan-based truck manufacturer posted a loss of $2 billion, owing both to dismal sales and global factory closures.
Using Technology to Address the Crisis
Congress has so far allocated nearly $3 trillion to keep the economy afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, but according to IW contributors Robert Atkinson and Caleb Foote, that funding has a notable hole in it: Technology. “It has been an article of faith for decades that traditional physical infrastructure boosts long-term growth, but evidence suggests that the growth benefits are limited when compared to other areas,” they write, “especially 21st century digital infrastructure.” According to Foote and Atkinson, investing in foundations for smart cities and improved digital services would provide a critical engine for long-term growth. Read the full story here.
The jarring changes wrought by the coronavirus pandemic have spurred speculation about just how much will be changed entirely once the economy is fully back to normal, or, in short, what the new normal will look like. Jordan K. Speer, research analyst with the IDC Retail Insights practice, predicts that companies will use the opportunity of the coronavirus to implement more artificial intelligence as a long-term strategy to defend against COVID-19-like havoc. Read the full story here.