In addition to its health impact, COVID-19 is leading to unprecedented economic disruption. On this page we collect pieces by CROWE researchers tracking and analyzing the economic impact of COVID-19 in Wisconsin and around the world.
New Research Report
COVID-19 Data Briefs
- Business Formation during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Updated Oct 23, 2020)
- Wisconsin’s labor market and COVID-19 (Updated Nov 20)
- The Wisconsin Economy During COVID-19: Lockdown and Reopening (Updated Oct 23, 2020)
- The COVID-19 Recovery Has Stalled
- The Economic Impact of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Ruling Invalidating the State’s Safer at Home Order
- The Effects of COVID-19 on WI Workers & Firms
- Protest Dynamics: Evidence from Foot Traffic Data
- Reopening the Economy: Early Evidence from Georgia and Wisconsin
- Reopening Wisconsin Current Economic and Health Indexes , Regional Health and Economic Factors
- Measuring Economic Activity using Foot-Traffic Data
- Measuring proximity to others in the workplace
- Impact of State-wide Stay at Home Orders
- Consumer Responses to the Pandemic
- Air-Traffic as a Proxy for Economic Activity in the Transportation Sector
- Economic Impact of COVID-19 on the Chinese Economy
- Unemployment Benefits under the Federal COVID-19 Relief Package
- Geographic Distribution of Workers Most at Risk Economically
- Forecasting Initial Unemployment Claims using Google Searches
- Growth of Initial Unemployment Claims across States
- November 18, 2020: Public Health and Economic Update at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC). This webinar featured Medical College of Wisconsin’s Dr. John Raymond who briefed listeners on the current COVID-19 state Wisconsin is in. Prof Noah Williams gave an update on Wisconsin’s economy and what it might look like in the upcoming months.
Watch on YouTube Dr. Raymond’s slides Prof Williams’ slides Excerpts on WPR tmj4
- Nov 10, 2020: The UW Now Livestream and Q & A hosted by the Wisconsin Alumni Association: “Our Economic Possibilities”: Talks featuring Ananth Seshadri and Noah Williams, moderated by Mike Knetter.
Summary Watch on YouTube Prof Williams’ Slides Prof Seshadri’s Slides
- Sep 24, 2020: This week’s “WisBusiness: The Podcast” was sponsored by UW-Madison, and featured CROWE director Noah Williams. Williams talked about the Center’s research on tracking the economy during the pandemic and discussed several topics including unemployment rate, Wisconsin’s current economic recovery and what could hinder it. Listen to the podcast here
- August 12, 2020:
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) webinar featured a presentation by CROWE director, Noah Williams. Professor Williams provided attendees with an economic update, break down of the latest data and a preview of where we may be headed in the fall.
- July 29, 2020:
Wisconsin’s COVID-19 Economic Impact (Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) Coronavirus Management Series): Noah Williams, CROWE Director, focused on Wisconsin’s economy and touched on national issues during this webinar, followed by a Q&A session. Read the summary
- July 21, 2020:
Rotary Club of Milwaukee featured a talk by Noah Williams, Professor of Economics at UW Madison. Williams’ talk discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the Wisconsin economy from onset of the pandemic, through the statewide Safer at Home Order, and during reopening. Watch Video
- June 17, 2020:
CARW Thought Leadership Series: “The Macroeconomic Outlook” Webinar featuring a presentation by Noah Williams.
- May 27, 2020: State Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform, Informational Hearing:
Listen to Noah Williams’s testimony here. Channel3000’s coverage is here and TownHall’s report is here.
- May 12, 2020: The UW Now Livestream hosted by the Wisconsin Alumni Association: “Economic Effects of COVID-19”: An expert panel discussion featuring Ananth Seshadri, Brad Tank and Noah Williams, moderated by Mike Knetter.
Summary on uwalumni.com Watch on YouTube
- April 29, 2020: Live Web Discussion: “The Economic Impact of COVID-19“: A special presentation by Noah Williams, followed by Q & A moderated by Kim Ruhl and Simeon Alder. View Slides Watch Video
- WMC Business Coalition COVID-19 Update Webinars
Nov 12, 2020
Excerpt from Executive Summary
The COVID-19 shock is like no other. The effects of the pandemic have been crippling to the labor force globally and especially in the U.S., which has suffered the worst hit with 7+ million people infected. For some segments of the population the effects of COVID-19 go beyond the containment measures and threaten security in key areas of wellbeing: food, shelter, income, and mental health. The primary purpose of this report is to examine these threats to human wellbeing and suggest potential pathways for economic and mental health stimulus that will aid faster recovery.
My analysis shows that COVID-19 pandemic has had real economic fallouts in key areas: job loss, food security, and housing security. I also find that there is a large exogenous increase in anxiety levels across all income groups because of COVID-19. Other mental health dimensions like worry, loss of interest, and feeling down show a lagged increase over the 12 weeks from April 23th to July 21st. Results point to correlation between threats to economic security and mental health. This has some policy implications. Because the public health response needs to be a priority as infection rates continue to climb, economic policies have to address fallouts from public health policies and offer continued basic security for all. Additionally, there need to be well placed positive psychological shocks such as reassurances for Wisconsinites, so they recover quickly from bouts of anxiety and worry. This will, in the long run, facilitate a faster economic recovery.
Updated Nov 20, 2020 (first July 24, 2020)
This brief reports labor-market indicators for Wisconsin to demonstrate the effects of COVID-19 on labor supply and demand. This report is part of a larger effort at CROWE to document and analyze the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Updated Oct 23, 2020 (first posted June 11, 2020)
This brief summarizes data on the Wisconsin economy since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, I analyze economic activity using foot traffic at commercial locations around the state.
Since the last update on October 2 (reflecting data through September 30), Wisconsin has experienced a slight rebound in economic activity. While activity had slumped beginning in early September, a recovery began in late September and continued through mid-October. Nonetheless, the overall picture of the last several months has been one of relative stagnation, with overall foot traffic measures relatively unchanged between mid-July and late October.
Over the last three weeks, overall foot traffic from SafeGraph data has risen by about 6 percentage points, but this only returns the indicators to levels from July, and still down 28% year-over-year.
The Madison metro area continues to lag activity in the rest of the state and remains more 40% down from a year ago. The is a consequence of the continued relative closure of UW-Madison and absence of campus events, along with relatively tighter public health guidelines.
Data from the small business sector shows a more sustained downward trend, with employment down by about 10 percentage points since the end of August, and about 14 percentage points in the food and drink sector. Especially notable in the food and drink sector has been the gap that’s opened between open locations and employment. This reflects a substantial reduction in staffing at those establishments that have been able to remain open in this era of reduced capacity and social distancing.
updated Sep 25, 2020 (first posted June 11, 2020)
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to widespread job losses, and in addition there is timely and high-frequency data that shows a significant disruption in early-stage business formation. We find that changes in employment and labor force participation rates play a fairly limited role in accounting for business formation in “normal” times. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, labor market disruptions of a truly unprecedented magnitude play a far more prominent role in explaining the collapse of business formation in the US. One of our concerns is that a prolonged decline in the labor market may have a scarring effect on business formation.
This update to the “Business Formation during the COVID-19 Pandemic” report includes the business formation statistics from calendar weeks 39 through 42 and the state-level labor market data for the month of September. Labor market conditions and business applications are linked using the same accounting approach as the original report and the four previous updates. Two broad trends characterize the evolution of business formation since our previous update. First, the strength of the rebound is gradually losing steam, but continues above trend compared to previous years. The recovery is broad-based in that applications exceed the levels of prior years in virtually every state. Moreover, the recovery encompasses the more promising “high-propensity” applications. Thanks to this fairly sustained uptick in applications the cumulative number of applications through week 42 is exceeding comparable year-to-date numbers in previous years by a significant margin. Barring a sharp contraction in the flow of applications later this year, full-year totals are likely to exceed the levels from prior years. Second, the rise in applications can be attributed to a sustained rise in the number of applications per employed worker, rather than significant improvements in local labor markets. In fact, the labor force participation and employment rates for September continue to be weak by historical standards, but marginally improved compared to August. With the exception of Michigan and Indiana, all Midwestern states made gains in the employment rate of approximately one percentage point. The picture for the labor force participation rate is more mixed: Wisconsin’s roughly returned to 2019 levels while Iowa’s gap widened by an additional 0.6 points to -8.5 percent compared to the September rate in 2019.
For a more detailed discussion of the underlying methodology and data sources, the interested reader may want to review the original report.
July 24, 2020
After a rapid and deep crash with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, economic activity rebounded sharply from mid-April through the end of June across the country. However activity has fallen from its peaks in early July and has been flat over the past ten days or so, roughly in line with the spread of the virus and the reimposition of more stringent public health restrictions in different locations. In many states economic activity by mid-July was back where it was roughly one month earlier, if not lower.
July 3, 2020
The Economic Impact of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Ruling Invalidating the State’s Safer at Home Order
Using several real-time economic measures, this brief provides evidence suggesting a modestly positive impact of the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling invalidating the state’s Safer at Home order on economic activity. In two weeks following the ruling, relative to states where non-essential businesses were shut down, Wisconsin experienced a larger increase in the number of small businesses open (7.8 ppts), net revenue for small businesses (4.6 ppts), employment of low-income workers (0.8 ppts), earnings of low-income workers (1.6 ppts), individual mobility as measured by GPS data on time spent outside residential locations (3.2 ppts) and consumer credit/debit card spending (3.1 ppts).
Two weeks after the Wisconsin Supreme Court invalidated the state’s Safer at Home order on May 13, 2020: (1) the number of small businesses open increased by 9.9 percentage points, which is 7.8 percentage points larger than its synthetic control; (2) time spent at retail and recreation locations increased by 17 percentage points for Wisconsinites, which is 13.3 percentage points more than their counterparts in the synthetic control.
ESTIMATED WISCONSIN UNEMPLOYMENT RATE
With the repeal of the Safer at Home order, there are likely significant flows of people out of unemployment and back to work. Daily data on these workers is not available. Without a measure of this worker flow, our estimated rate will not track the true rate very well. For this reason, we have stopped updating the unemployment rate.
MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF WISCONSIN'S PUBLIC FIRMS
June 26, 2020
Following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, there have been substantial protests in many cities around the country, and indeed around the world. In this brief I use foot traffic data to analyze the dynamics of the protests at different locations around the United States. In both Minneapolis and Washington, DC, I find protests growing in scale to a peak, and diminishing thereafter. Since early June, overall activity has dropped substantially in the zip code in Minneapolis that was at the heart of the protests, likely due to sustained damage at area businesses. In Washington, protest activity around the White House started later, growing to a peak on June 6. Activity has declined since then, but remains elevated relative to April and May, and has spiked on weekends. Overall, I find that the protests led to isolated spikes in activity at particular locations. But the protests did not substantially impact overall measures of activity in the metro areas where they took place.
While the data only covers the first ten days after the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, there was a noticeable increase in overall activity, which gained 7.5 percentage points in the past two weeks, closing 16% of the year-over-year gap. The gains were particularly notable in bars (up 75%) and full service restaurants (up 64%) last weekend relative to the weekend before the decision. Total activity still remained 38% below 2019 levels, but is well up from the 59% declines in mid-April, and the recent gains suggest a growing rebound. This is particularly true in the hardest hit sector of accommodations and food, such as hotels (up 11 points, but still down 60% from 2019) and full service restaurants (up 16 points, but still down 48% from 2019).
Current Economic and Health Indexes. May 7, 2020
Current economic index and its components statewide and in the five highest and lowest counties in Wisconsin.
Current health index and its components by HERC region.
“On average, the counties in Wisconsin that were in worse economic condition before the COVID-19 pandemic have suffered the largest losses during the crisis.” Noah Williams, April 28, 2020.
Most proposals to “reopen” the economy suggest a staged reopening, beginning with relatively low-risk sectors. We score industries by the need for workers to be proximate to others and find that the healthcare industry has the highest score, followed by hospitality and food service. Manufacturing and retail are intermediate and the professional and management industries have relatively low score.
Updated May 6, 2020 (first posted April 2, 2020)
“Economic activity in Wisconsin, as measured by foot traffic data, has recovered slightly over the past two weeks. Activity fell sharply though March and early April, hitting a low of a 60% drop year-over-year for the week of April 12. However there has been a partial recovery over the last two weeks, with an easing of some restrictions and a reduction in social distancing, with total activity down 45% for the week ending May 2. Retail trade led the recovery, going from down 44% the week of April 12 to down 22% last week. There was also modest recovery in accommodation and food services, health care, and finance, all of which saw relative gains of 10-15 percentage points over the past two weeks. But even with this recent rebound, activity remains far below 2019 levels.”
The fraction of Wisconsinites at home all day increased by about 20 percentage points in March (Level). A comparison with its synthetic control, a weighted average of states without a stay-at-home order by the end of the month, suggests that about 20% of the increase (4 percentage points) can be attributed to the Safer at Home order (Difference). Junjie Guo, April 29, 2020.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the United States, consumers have changed their spending habits dramatically. There has been a sharp drop in consumption, but also a large shift: grocery spending has risen while restaurant and especially travel spending has fallen sharply. The consumption decline overall was cushioned by increasing on-line sales. In Wisconsin, total sales were down 15% at the end of March, but in-store sales were down 30%, with online sales up 20%. Noah Williams, April 23, 2020
Media Mentions of CROWE Research
Nov 18, 2020
Public Health and Economic Update at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC). This webinar featured Medical College of Wisconsin’s Dr. John Raymond who briefed listeners on the current COVID-19 state Wisconsin is in. Prof Noah Williams gave an update on Wisconsin’s economy and what it might look like in the upcoming months.
Watch on YouTube Dr. Raymond’s slides Prof Williams’ slides Excerpts on tmj4 WPR’s coverage.
Oct 9, 2020
CROWE’s research on foot-traffic and labor markets featured in Green Bay Press Gazette’s article on why experts worry that the soaring COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin could sink the state’s economic recovery. Read the article here
Oct 8, 2020
“Pay workers for finding a job, not for staying unemployed…..Instead of encouraging unemployed workers to hope for a return to a job that may no longer exist, policymakers should help in the reallocation process”- writes Noah Williams in City Journal. Read the full article “Bonus Army” in which Williams writes about ways in which public policy can help the unemployed to get back to work.
Sep 16, 2020
Read what CROWE’s director, Prof Williams and other experts say about the increased pressure on local and federal government officials to make extensive budget cuts because of the COVID-19 pandemic in Badger Herald‘s piece “UW to face economic fallout in 2021 fiscal year due to COVID-19″.
“Corona-nomics How is the economy faring under extraordinary stress?” In the Fall 2020 issue of UW-Madison’s alumni magazine, OnWisconsin, CROWE Director Prof Noah Williams says “There was a lot of damage happening, and if we didn’t post frequently, we were afraid we’d miss a lot of what was going on.”… Read the story here
Aug 25, 2020
“Back to Low Growth: The impact of Joe Biden’s tax plan would be less income across the spectrum and a sluggish economy”, writes Noah Williams in City Journal. Read the full article here and Zhigang Ge’s quantitative study cited in the article here. A commentary is posted here via Manhattan Institute.
July 31, 2020
“What Comes Next After An Historic Drop In The US Economy?” Listen to Noah Williams on Wisconsin Public Radio.
July 21, 2020
“As Coronavirus Spreads, Wisconsin’s Economic Recovery Haults, Mimicking Other States’ Patterns” Read article on Noah Williams’s talk at Rotary Club of Milwaukee published by SpectrumNEWS1
June 1, 2020
Wisconsin Business Voice Video Series: UW-Madison Professor & Director of Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy (CROWE), Noah Williams discussed the economic impacts of COVID-19 in Wisconsin and our current unemployment status. Watch here
May 13, 2020
WisBusiness.com summarizes The UW Now Expert Panel discussion on the Economic Effects of COVID-19 –“As Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is estimated to exceed 20 percent based on initial unemployment claims, rural northern parts of the state are seeing a larger impact.” Read more
May 13, 2020
“UW-Madison’s Economists: 2022 is the Target for Return Normalcy in these Key Areas” — Mike Semmann, Executive VP/COO, Wisconsin Banker’s Association, summarizes the highlights of The UW Now Expert Panel discussion on the Economic Effects of COVID-19 in a rapid fire Q & A format. Read it here
May 12, 2020
City Journal “Policymakers should move toward a phased-in, regional approach to re-openings—and pay attention not only to infections but also unemployment.” – says Noah Williams in “Economic Well-being Matters, Too”. Read More
April 26, 2020
CNN Tonight featured an interview with Noah Williams in a story “Wisconsin’s economy hit hard by the coronavirus” by @miguelmarquez highlighting the difficulties people are facing. Watch it here.
April 8, 2020
Green Bay Press-Gazette cites Noah Williams’s Foot-traffic data in “How many visitors did Wisconsin businesses lose because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing? Report says 52% drop in foot traffic” Read more
April 2, 2020
City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research featured Noah Williams’s article “Thinking Past the Crisis- Federal expansion of jobless benefits is necessary but may impede recovery”. Read more