Reopening the Economy: Early Evidence from Georgia and Wisconsin

Noah Williams

Executive Summary:

After implementing stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the COVID-19, over the past couple of weeks, a number of states have moved toward “reopening” their economies. Georgia has had one of the earliest and most comprehensive reopening plans. I compare economic activity in Georgia and Wisconsin, which had remained under a stay-at home order until a recent state Supreme Court decision. I find that activity in both states was very similar during the early pandemic and stay-at-home orders. However the removal of restrictions in Georgia has been followed by a 10 percentage point increase in activity over the past three weeks, with slightly larger gains in industries particularly targeted for earlier reopening. Activity in Georgia remains 35% below 2019 levels, thus the gains after reopening accounted for roughly 22% of the gap (10 points out of 45), consistent with previous causal estimates of the impact of stay-at-home orders.

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