The numbers associated with the coronavirus pandemic blow the mind.
More than 33 million U.S. workers have applied for unemployment benefits. The federal government expects to borrow a record $4.5 trillion this year. Half of the nation’s small businesses temporarily closed, and almost 60 percent of them don’t think they have enough cash to get through the crisis.
An estimated 25 million to 43 million people could lose their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, the Urban Institute revealed this week, with help from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“Our safety net is about to be tested," said Katherine Hempstead, senior policy adviser at the foundation.
An economist I spoke with predicted that the nation’s real unemployment rate will hit 35 percent, 10 times higher than February’s official tally.
How will the economy respond? I asked.
“There’s no model for that,” said Bryan Del Monte, who also runs the Aviation Agency, an advertising and marketing firm.
Another big figure: 356. That’s how many times Ocala resident Bill Conner called the state’s unemployment benefits before anyone answered. Another man said he spent more than 10 hours on hold waiting to update his personal identification number so that he could access benefits.
The economy is sure to turn a corner, but expect more head-turning numbers in the meantime.
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Keeping with the numbers theme, a report released this week from the Institute for Economic Forecasting at the University of Central Florida outlined how the crisis will affect the state’s metro areas.
The Tampa Bay area, consisting of Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough and Hernando counties, will experience comparatively high growth relative to other Florida cities.
The unemployment rate will average 7.6 percent this year, 7.4 percent next year, and fall to 3.8 in 2022, close to last year’s average. If the numbers sound low, it’s because they are averages for the entire year. The monthly peaks will be much higher, especially in the second half of this year and the first three months of next year.
The number of Tampa Bay area residents who have a job will fall, from 1.38 million last year to 1.35 million in 2021, the report found.
The number of newly built single- and multi-family homes will plunge from 22,516 last year to less than 18,000 this year and below 17,000 in 2021. They will climb back to 18,506 in 2022.
Wages and per-capita income will bounce around this year and next, but should remain above where they were at the end of 2019, the report said.
The Tampa Bay area also will have the state’s second-highest average gross metro product — a measure of total economic output — behind only Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach.
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One last number: $1,500.
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In the big scheme, $1,500 isn’t that much. Thousands of similar good deeds have taken place in the Tampa Bay area over the past few weeks. And some local companies have ponied up much more, including Tampa-based Suncoast Credit Union donating $1 million this week to a wide range of Florida-based health care, educational and food security organizations.
But United Capital Funding’s generosity shows what nearly any business can do in just a matter of days. The effort provides assurance in a world awash in scary numbers.
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