Oregon Economist: ‘We Just Don’t Know Yet’ How Coronavirus Will Impact State Economy

Mar 9, 2020

State economists say it’s too soon to know how the spread of the COVID-19 virus will impact Oregon’s economy.

While the most serious effect of a pandemic is the impact on its victims, economists say it could take an economic toll as well.

Economists say the hospitality industry could be among the hardest hit, as consumers reduce discretionary spending amid fears of a long-term outbreak.
Credit Image by Nenad Maric from Pixabay

Oregon’s economy is still in fairly good shape, but Josh Lehner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis wrote in a pair of blog posts that a lengthy outbreak could impact the state and nation. A slowdown in consumer spending would hit different sectors in different ways. People may simply delay the purchase of big-ticket items for a few weeks or months, which would minimize the long-term impact.

"After fears of contagion subside, then many of those sales would return due to pent-up demand," writes Lehner. "People will still buy a car or a house, just a month or two later than they originally thought."

But the tourism sector could take a huge hit, as hotels and restaurants are less likely to make back the money they lose when people cancel their trips.

Lehner writes that employees of the hospitality industry could bear the brunt of a slowdown. "Even in a temporary disruption scenario, these workers will still lose a paycheck or work reduced hours given the low level of sales," he writes. "They may need to rely on the social safety net to a larger degree as a result."

On Monday, the Oregon Legislature's Emergency Board allocated $5 million to the Oregon Health Authority to help with Coronavirus response. Senate President Peter Country, D-Salem, said more funding could be on the way.

"This thing is very dynamic," he said. "Five million is a start. We don't know what all is going to happen yet."