There are signs of some small recovery, but a long road ahead according to University of Arizona Economic and Business Research Center Director George Hammond. In an interview with Zach Yentzer on “Tipping Point,” Hammond discussed how the local economic recovery looks.
Card-based transactions during the stay-at-home order were down 30% from early January in Tucson, but after mid-April and as stimulus payments began to come in, Hammond saw card-based transactions rebounding up to only 20% down from early January. Leisure and travel industry transactions were hit much harder, down 60% from where they were in January 2020. This industry will face a lengthier comeback. An additional metric, tracking seated diners in Phoenix and across Arizona (but not yet data from Tucson), show that seated dining is down 80% from where it was pre-COVID; of course, it was down 100% during the orders.
Hammond suggests that we look not only at numbers of cases and testing, but also at hospitalization rates and death rates to give good data and numbers about where we are with COVID-19. “We are in this transition period where we are opening the economy without therapeutics and vaccines…. so the question is how do we get through the ‘for-now,’ to the ‘forever’ situation.”
Hammond suggests another federal stimulus round will be valuable to make better recovery more certain, and would like to see the spending be focused on vulnerable populations like the elderly, and a better execution of funding for small business.
On the Moody Analytics ranking of Tucson as a Top 10 City best positioned for a strong recovery from COVID-19, Hammond was measured, sharing that in terms of educational attainment for our working age population, our region is not as strong as it could be. The key ratio we should be looking at is the share of working population in labor market that have advanced degrees. We are not as strong as we could be in having a workforce that can drive innovation and development. Hammond added, we do benefit because of our low household densities and that we don’t rely on mass transit. This will help Southern Arizona to recover stronger and also be more attractive. While we will get more northeast migrants, he shares, most migrants come from Southern California, and we will continue to attract more than we lose, which is good for the real estate market and retail. Regionally, he is hearing efforts to more aggressively seek out and finalize economic development opportunities.
He suggests we focus on workforce development and leadership skills and creativity, including information technology and advanced digital skills to prepare a workforce that can take us into the new economy now and over the next 30 years.
Listen to the interview here:
PC: University of Arizona https://eller.arizona.edu/people/george-w-hammond