This report is a summary of third-party economic research and perspectives to foster communication with business and economic development stakeholders during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Global: The World Economic Forum Davos Agenda, taking place virtually on January 25-29, will bring together the foremost leaders of the world to address the new global situation.
- U.S.: The Biden-Harris Administration took office, signing an array of executive orders.
- Ohio: Ohio’s unemployment rate was 5% in December 2020, down from 5.7% in November.
A World Economic Forum survey showed respondents ranked infectious diseases as the most critical threat to the world over the course of the next two years, followed by livelihood crises and extreme weather conditions. More than half of businesses moving goods from the European Union to the U.K. have experienced delays since January 1 due to Brexit and virus restrictions. Goods from large companies mainly sail through ports but small businesses struggle with the new post-Brexit rules. Canada’s inflation unexpectedly slowed in December, as annual rates decelerated to 0.7%, from 1% in November as a new wave of lockdowns took place.
Nearly 3M Americans stopped receiving unemployment benefits the week after Christmas. About 900,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, down slightly from the week earlier, when applications jumped by more than 100,000 to 926,000. President Biden took a range of executive actions, including implementing a national mask mandate on federal property, directing agencies to use wartime powers to require U.S. companies to make N95 masks, swabs and other equipment, revoking a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and reversing a travel ban. Two of the executive actions will affect the financial lives of Americans with extending the pause of federal student loan payments and the federal eviction moratorium.
Bond-market indicators of inflation have all pushed higher in recent weeks. Retail sales, a measure of purchases at stores, restaurants and online, declined a seasonally adjusted 0.7% in December from the prior month. That marked the third consecutive month of declines. Some airlines, eyeing a future economic recovery and return to travel, have begun pilot hiring as they are optimistic for a significant improvement in domestic air travel by summer. Despite this optimism, Delta concluded its “toughest year” in history with a loss in Q4 2020 of $1.6B and an adjusted net loss of $6.8B for the year. Increased intermodal and grain volumes boosted U.S. rail traffic with weekly volumes 6% higher. Overall, carloads slipped 2% amid a continued drop in coal volumes at 18% for the week. Grain carloads grew 42.6% year-over-year whereas intermodal grew 12.8%.
Amazon will face its first union vote in the U.S. since 2014 when roughly 6,000 employees in Alabama will cast their ballots. Aviation regulators approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights. Home construction starts rose in December by 5.8% to a 1.67M annualized rate to the best pace since late 2006. Home sales soared in 2020, reaching their highest level in 14 years. However, homeowners staying in their residences longer is contributing to the worsening shortage of homes on the market. The 1.28M homes for sale at the end of November was down 22% from November 2019 and inventory sits near its lowest level in decades. Homebuilder confidence slipped to a four-month low in January as firms became slightly less optimistic about sales against a backdrop of higher house prices and construction costs.
Ohio’s unemployment rate was 5.5% in December 2020, down from 5.7% in November. Ohio will make a $50M investment on 2M rapid antigen tests that can be self-administered with results in about 15 minutes, according to Bloomberg. Ohio is ranked in the top 10 states for competitive labor environment and leading workforce development programs, in part due to JobsOhio’s new Ohio toWork partnership with Goodwill and the Urban League. The Department of Energy committed $1M toward a partnership between Youngstown State University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to support a new energy workforce innovation center. Ohio ranks #7 in the U.S. for solar power jobs, according to the Solar Foundation.
The COVID-19 vaccination effort is continuing in Ohio with residents 80 and older becoming eligible. Roughly 3.9% of the state’s population received the first dose of the two-shot regimen. Governor DeWine warned that further slowdowns in the rollout may be possible and that if Ohio does not receive enough doses there may be a delay in the rollout to Ohioans aged 70 and older.
A surge in investment activity toward the end of 2020 has positioned Cleveland’s industrial real estate market for a strong start in the new year. The number of minority- and women-owned firms that are certified to do business with the city of Columbus is growing with 770 minority- and women-owned firms registered.
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