Approaching Infinite Corona Unemployment! By James Reed

     This is sombre news for Australians as the projected unemployment from the coronavirus pandemic could lead to one quarter of the workforce being unemployed. And, once small businesses lose the critical momentum to keep going, they simply may not be able to restart. I walked through the city to find a place where I could use a computer, no easy task in itself, but it was all a ghost town, shops closed everywhere. It reminded me of the deserted streets scene form post-apocalyptic movies such ads On the Beach (1959):

“We knew it would be bad. But we’d hoped it wouldn’t be quite this bad. Over the past few weeks, we at Grattan Institute have been working on ways to estimate the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on jobs in Australia. It’s a complex task, with few obvious precedents. The results, detailed in our new working paper, “Shutdown: estimating the COVID-19 employment shock”, are worrying. Our estimate is that between a sixth and a quarter of Australia’s workforce is likely to be out of work because of the COVID-19 shutdown and social distancing. It derives from two sources of information. The first is data from the United States on the extent to which each occupation requires workers to be near other people. The “physical proximity” requirements of a job are generally likely to be a good guide to how likely it is the job can continue during the shutdown. The second source of information is a set of estimates by Grattan researchers of the extent to which jobs are under threat in each of 88 industries in Australia. Our preferred method for estimating the hit to jobs combines both these sources. We also use two alternative methods, each of which is relying on a single source of data, which are outlined in our working paper. Our preferred method finds that about 26% of workers – 3.4 million Australians – could be thrown out of work as a direct result of the shutdown and social distancing. The alternative methods produce figures that are lower, but still distressingly high.”

     And what do the economists think of this? Well, they are taking a surprising biological view of things:

“Open Letter from Australian Economists
19 April, 2020
Dear Prime Minister and Members of the National Cabinet,
The undersigned economists have witnessed and participated in the public debate about when to relax social-distancing measures in Australia. Some commentators have expressed the view there is a trade-off between the public health and economic aspects of the crisis. We, as economists, believe this is a false distinction.
We cannot have a functioning economy unless we first comprehensively address the public health crisis. The measures put in place in Australia, at the border and within the states and territories, have reduced the number of new infections. This has put Australia in an enviable position compared to other countries, and we must not squander that success.
We recognise the measures taken to date have come at a cost to economic activity and jobs, but believe these are far outweighed by the lives saved and the avoided economic damage due to an unmitigated contagion. We believe strong fiscal measures are a much better way to offset these economic costs than prematurely loosening restrictions.
As has been foreshadowed in your public remarks, our borders will need to remain under tight control for an extended period. It is vital to keep social-distancing measures in place until the number of infections is very low, our testing capacity is expanded well beyond its already comparatively high level, and widespread contact tracing is available.
A second-wave outbreak would be extremely damaging to the economy, in addition to involving tragic and unnecessary loss of life.
Professor Alison Booth, Australian National University
Professor Jeff Borland, University of Melbourne
Professorial Research Fellow Lisa Cameron, Melbourne Institute, University of Melbourne
Professor Efrem Castelnuovo, University of Melbourne
Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, University of Sydney
Assistant Professor Ashley Craig, University of Michigan
Professor Chris Edmond, University of Melbourne
Professor Nisvan Erkal, University of Melbourne
Professor John Freebairn, University of Melbourne
Professor Renée Fry-McKibbin, Australian National University
Professor Joshua Gans, University of Toronto
Professor Jacob Goeree, UNSW Business School
Professor Quentin Grafton, Australian National University
Professor Simon Grant, Australian National University
Professor Pauline Grosjean, UNSW Business School
Distinguished Professor Jane Hall, University of Technology Sydney
Assistant Professor Steven Hamilton, George Washington University
Professor Ian Harper, Melbourne Business School
Professor Richard Holden, UNSW Business School
Professor David Johnston, Monash University
Professor Flavio Menezes, University of Queensland
Professor Warwick McKibbin, Australian National University
Assistant Professor Simon Mongey, University of Chicago
Professor James Morley, University of Sydney
Professor Joseph Mullins, University of Minnesota
Professor Abigail Payne, Melbourne Institute, University of Melbourne
Professor Bruce Preston, University of Melbourne
Emeritus Professor Sue Richardson, Flinders University
Professor Stefanie Schurer, University of Sydney
Professor Kalvinder Shields, University of Melbourne
Professor John Quiggin, University of Queensland
Associate Professor Simon Quinn, Oxford University
Economic Advisor James Vickery, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
Professor Tom Wilkening, University of Melbourne
Professor Justin Wolfers, University of Michigan
Professor Yves Zenou, Monash University”

     Well, I guess an uneducated person cannot argue with that mob, so I will just quietly starve to death, or go mad, while this plague washes away … or so they hope. Too bad though if this is simply the start of nature getting active with its bugs, and more is to come. Looks like economies will be a thing of the past, since even post-apocalyptic barter towns will violate social distancing rules. But, bad news for the “immigration is everything” cult, as a mass emigration occurs. Already 310,000 immigrants have left Australia, and 300,000 more temporary workers are set to leave. If this trend continues it may reverse the post-World War II immigration cult, and open up some jobs for Anglo Australians, even as the ship sinks. Economic collapse will also see a mass exodus as they leave for better lands. Ha! Ha! as the character Nelson from The Simpsons might say:



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