3 Reasons COVID-19 is Creating a Rural Employment Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a health crisis unlike anything we’ve ever seen. But the disease’s damage doesn’t stop there. With millions of people forced to stay at home, the economy has cratered. 701,000 people lost their job in March alone—the worst month for American jobs since the Great Recession in March 2009.

At CORI, we knew there was an economic crisis happening in rural America even before this crash. Small town industries have been declining, tech jobs have boomed only in cities, and young people have left their rural hometowns in search of opportunity. And without good access to broadband, rural areas haven’t been able to tap into the digital economy’s growth.

All those existing challenges made us worried about what could happen when a COVID-related recession hit. Led by our in-house economist Mark Rembert, we created an Employment Risk Index, which ranks counties by how vulnerable they are to losing jobs based on three factors relevant to the COVID crisis: employment in high-risk industries, employment in small businesses, and age of workforce. What we found was troubling: Rural America faces a disproportionately high employment risk.

20th century industries are hardest hit

Our analysis found four industries at highest risk from COVID-19, whether through decreased demand or an inability to employ remote work: tourism, manufacturing, transportation, and natural resource production. In metro areas, these industries make up just 43 percent of all jobs. In rural areas, they represent an astonishing 56 percent.

View the geographical data and read the rest of this article at Center on Rural Innovation (CORI).

Reprinted with permission from American Geographical Society

Aidan Calvelli is Research and Communications Analyst at CORI. He has edited books and articles about democracy and the presidency that have been featured by national news outlets and publishers. Aidan grew up in Rochester, NY and Shelburne, VT, and holds an A.B. in Political Theory from Brown University.

New Report: A Policy of Delusion and Misdirection

A new report authored by Joel Kotkin, Ali Modarres, and Wendell Cox examines how California's planning policies are contributing to the affordable housing crisis. An excerpt follows and a link to read/download the entire report.

“California’s leaders speak much about housing affordability, but their policy agenda seems designed to prolong and worsen the crisis. As it has done for almost a generation, the state has placed ever increasing burdens on housing developers, and now seems determined to “solve” the crisis by adding more challenges to anyone seeking to expand housing.

The failure of this approach should be manifest. Governor Newsom has called for building 3.5 million new homes by 2025. Yet housing construction continues to be muted, with the 2019 building permit number of 119,000 below the last two years and far below the 315,000 permits issued in 1986, when California had one-third fewer residents. At the current rate it would require more than 30 years to build 3.5 million houses.

Much of the political leadership sees the housing crisis as the result of a shortage in housing supply. However, supply alone cannot resolve the housing affordability crisis. The supply of housing has to be affordable to middle and low income households.

Clearly, the state’s principal housing strategy, Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), has not restored housing affordability. RHNA requires metropolitan planning agencies, counties and cities to zone sufficient land for housing production targets. But land and regulatory costs in the state are so high that builders can earn a competitive return on investment only on houses that are too expensive for nearly all middle-income households to afford.”

Read or download the full report here.

Indianapolis Backs $25 Million in Paycheck Protection Loans

I want to highlight a great development here in Indianapolis. The city of Indianapolis has approved allocating $25 million to fund federal paycheck protection program loans underwritten by the Indy Chamber. (Full disclosure: I am a consultant for the chamber).

The SBA’s forgivable Paycheck Protection Program was such a big hit that the loan funds were entirely allocated in short order. Congress just provided an additional allocation of funds, with $30 billion reserved for CDFI (community development financial institution) type lenders.

The Indy Chamber is an existing CDFI that was already making loans through its Rapid Response Loan fund. The city’s $25 million will significantly scale up this local effort by providing the initial capital needed to underwrite these loans.

These new PPP loans are being targeted as businesses with 50 or fewer employees and in amounts of $75,000 or less. So this program is directly targeted at true small businesses.

There’s definitely a lot of work still to do, but Indy is on the forefront of local communities mobilizing to help small businesses navigate through this crisis

Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker, and writer on a mission to help America’s cities and people thrive and find real success in the 21st century.

The Sidewalks of Montreal

Montreal’s mayor Valerie Plante has “widened” some sidewalks to provide sufficient space for pedestrian use while providing sufficient social distancing. Where implemented, sidewalks have been widened to 4.5 meters (nearly 15 feet) by extension into streets (with barriers to protect from car and truck traffic.) This action is being taken only in the highest volume areas of the city.

Michagan's Health and Economic Situations Are Dire

New weekly unemployment insurance claims continue to moderate, but remain at levels unseen before the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, new claims filed since March 1st are now above 20 percent of pre-outbreak employment in some states.

Michigan has been hit particularly hard, with the worst mortality rate in the country and the second-worst share of pre-outbreak employment that have filed unemployment insurance claims.

Read the full article at Heartland Forward.

Lousiana in the Bullseye of the COVID-19 Economic Crisis

New weekly unemployment insurance claims have come down slightly from last week's record-setting levels. Looking at the unemployment insurance data and data on confirmed COVID-19 cases, Louisiana is being severely impacted from both a health and economic perspective.

For the week ending April 4, 2020, another 6.6 million workers filed unemployment insurance (UI) claims, as economists anticipated. Last week’s claim volume results from massive backlogs in initial states hit by the coronavirus, such as California and New York, as well as the fact that the industries impacted by the economic shutdown employ large numbers of people. Further, last week’s numbers should include data for those states which instituted shelter in place orders later than other states, like Florida, Texas and Georgia.2 Additionally, last week’s claims also includes the self-employed and contract laborers, who, thanks to the CARES Act enacted on March 27, 2020, are now eligible for temporary UI benefits.

COVID-19 Infection Rates

The map below plots the COVID-19 new cases per 100,000 persons as of April 4. New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Rhode Island and Idaho comprise the 10 states with the highest rates of infection, 3 of which are in the Heartland. Though Michigan has a higher total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 (14,225), Louisiana leads the Heartland with an infection rate of 197.5 cases per 100,000 for reasons described in more detail below.


Unemployment Claims Filed

The state with the highest unemployment claims last week is California, with over 925,000 claims, followed by Georgia (over 388,000 claims), Michigan (almost 385,000 claims), New York (354,000 claims) and Texas (nearly 314,000 claims). While unemployment claims in some states are related to COVID-19 outbreaks, the relationship between COVID-19 cases and unemployment insurance claims continues to deteriorate. Across the Heartland region, 2.3 million claims were filed last week, which represents 37 percent of claims filed. After Michigan and Texas, Ohio (224,000 claims), Illinois (201,000 claims) and Indiana (134,000 claims) round out the 5 highest level of new claims in the region.

Read the rest of the piece at Heartland Forward.

Relearning the lessons of 1919 in 2020

More than 100 years ago, a worldwide pandemic moved from China to the entire Western World through in-sourced low wage labor, according to the research of one historian. As the Allies fought WWI, farmers were going to war, and as Napoleon said, “An army marches on its stomach.”

The Allies desperately needed chicken and pig farmers to raise food to be canned for the troops. Some 96,000 Northern Chinese farmers and menial laborers were imported. Everywhere they went a killing flu broke out and then made its way through human contact around most of the globe killing many more people (50 million) than the war casualties of WWI. The German, Austrian and Turkish populations were particularly hard hit, and the so-called “Spanish Flu” played no small part in the end of the war. The first lesson is that borders need to be medically controlled and that closed borders are safer than open ones, especially when there are wildly varying sanitary and health conditions between nations.

The Spanish Influenza was so named because, to most people, it seemed Spain was most heavily hit by the virus. This wasn’t actually true, but because Spain was neutral, it seemed hardest hit due to the fact that its press was not being censored for the war effort. People in the nations fighting the war were not given information about the disease, how it was spread and how to avoid exposure. They would still go to munitions factories and bond rallies, remaining focused on war activities. This allowed the virus to deeply penetrate all of Europe and the United States. The second lesson is that a controlled or dishonest press is an agent of death in a pandemic.

Most of the Spanish flu victims didn’t actually die from the virus. The virus would ravage their bodies, particularly their lungs. Generally, they would recover but be terribly weakened, their lungs etched by the effects of the virus. In their weakened state, the victims acquired bacterial infections. With raw lungs and weakened immune systems, they were unable to withstand the infections.

This led to a cleanliness and anti-bacterial fetish in the Western World from 1920 until roughly 1980. By 1980, we had forgotten the WHY of this fetish and deemed it to be the silliness and unjustified paranoia of our grandparents’ generation. They had no 15-second rule on their fastidiously clean floors for very good reason. The third major lesson is that soap and other disinfectants save lives.

I had not flown on a jet from 1989 until 2016. I had not taken a bus, streetcar or train from 1990 until 2017. As a member of a national not-for-profit board, I have recently been taking public transportation to get around the country. The shabbiness and filth on jets, trains and buses I encountered was shocking.

Presumably as a cost-cutting measure, general filth has been allowed to prevail. This makes public transportation dangerous, in addition to the crowding of people into tight, poorly ventilated space. In the 1918 pandemic, it was noticed that people who used public transportation had much higher infection rates than those who walked, rode bicycles or used automobiles. The fourth lesson is the same today. Mass transit is dangerous during epidemics and pandemics.

Beginning in 1920, there was a huge move of population in the industrialized world from cramped cities to the suburbs. Again the Spanish flu played a major role in Modernist-Progressive preaching that the cramped conditions of cities made them natural breeding grounds for disease. The first train subway founded in Connecticut in the 1880s gave support to this thinking.

Los Angeles County, famous for being an “automotive metropolis,” was actually laid out in the 1890s as suburbs. The thought process was that even if fathers of families had to risk their lives by working in the city, wives and children would be safe from contagion and also able to exercise and grow some family food. It was seen in the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak that, indeed, tightly packed dense cities had almost double the infection rates as suburbs and rural areas. The fifth lesson in 1918 was clear, as it should be clear today: density kills.

For two decades now, Globalists pretending to be Progressives and falsely flying under our banner have been attempting to remake the world into a global community of open borders, reduced standards of cleanliness and maintenance, lower wages, mass transit and dense urban cores. They have refused the lessons of history that 1918 and all other world pandemics and local health crises have taught us.

At this very moment, as a pandemic rages, the Globalists still demand and promote bail-out packages with open borders, dense and killing mass transit systems, anti-suburban planning initiatives and, insanely enough, more dense cities. Their religion of oligarch profit will not consider reality, instead wanting to enforce an obstinate rigidity against it.

The future is ours. We must seize it for the reality history shows what real sustainability is.

Steven Lamb is a 4th generation Native Californian. He is a past City Council Person and Land Use Commissioner. Mr. Lamb has had a Organic Architecture design practice for thirty five years. Mr. Lamb presently is a board member of Progressives for Immigration Reform and a co founder of the Center for Progressive Urban Politics.

Urban Life and Pandemics

Pandemics have always been the enemy of dense, urban life. Cities, where people live in close quarters and mix with people from other places, are ideal breeding grounds for contagions. So far, by contrast, there have been comparatively few coronavirus infections in the vast middle of the United States, particularly in the rural reaches. When the bubonic plague devastated Europe, as the historian William McNeill noted, the cosmopolitan centers of Renaissance Italy fared far worse than the reaches of Poland or other parts of Central Europe. Those grandees who could, like some contemporary wealthy New Yorkers, fled to their country homes, where the chance of infection was slighter.

Even before covid-19 hit, large urban centers like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago were losing population; more than 90 percent of all population growth since 2010 has taken place in the suburbs or exurbs. Millennials, as a new study from Heartland Forward demonstrates, based on an analysis of census numbers, increasingly head to cities and towns in the middle of the country and away from the supposed “magnets” of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The current pestilence is likely to accelerate those shifts, which bear major ramifications for how Americans get to work. Transit ridership was doing poorly before the crisis, declining throughout the country, while telecommuting and driving alone continue to grow. With the specter of contagion, city-dwellers are told to avoid crowded subways, removing a critical element that makes ultradense cities work. In New York, subway traffic is down precipitously, as many commuters now work at home instead. Toronto is eliminating much of its downtown train service. The Washington Metro is also cutting back.

Just as progressives and environmentalists hoped the era of automotive dominance and suburban sprawl was coming to end, a globalized world that spreads pandemics quickly will push workers back into their cars and out to the hinterlands.

This piece first appeared in the The Washington Post.

Joel Kotkin @joelkotkin, a presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, is executive director of the Urban Reform Institute. His forthcoming book is “The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class.”

Where to Obtain Coronavirus Data

Various internet sites are now providing up to date information on the coronavirus at the international level. Two sources are described below:

Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. This site provides a world map, that shows cumulative confirmed cases and active cases (choices available on the map). It is possible to zoom on the map to the state level in the United States, for total confirmed cases, recoveries, deaths and active cases (confirmed cases minus deaths and recoveries). Zooming to the sub-national level is also possible for the provinces (provincial level jurisdictions) of China, the provinces of Canada and the states of Australia.

The map also provides total global confirmed cases (which were 212,000 on March 18), total recoveries (83,000), deaths (8,700).

We ran into some difficulties with the website, with some data not appearing. However, multiple reloading solved the problem (simply clicking on the web address, without leaving the website).

South China Morning Post: Hong Kong’s premier English newspaper provides similar global data in a simpler format than the Johns Hopkins data (the data varies between the two, though not substantially).

The great advantage about these two sites is their consistency of approach and comprehensiveness, which makes it possible to obtain a snapshot of the situation in the geographies that interest virtually any web visitor.

Photograph: Screenshot of Johns Hopkins Covid-19 Global Cases

Boris on Costly High Speed Rail: “Keep Digging” the Hole

Referring to HS2, the under-construction high speed rail line from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “in a hole the size of HS2, the only thing to do is keep digging." He was replying to Brayton Brent, a 10-year old interviewer on a Skynews kid’s program.

HS2 is under review for possible cancellation and the current thinking is that the Johnson government will decide to go ahead with the project.

When approved in 2012, the project was to cost £33 billion. Costs have nearly tripled to £107 billion, inflation adjusted.