A story from the Wall Street Journal reminds that ‘re-opening’ is futile without broad-based consumer demand. Austen Hufford and Bob Tita report Factories Close for Good as Coronavirus Cuts Demand (‘Some manufacturers that furloughed employees during lockdowns say plants won’t reopen’):
Factory furloughs across the U.S. are becoming permanent closings, a sign of the heavy damage the coronavirus pandemic and shutdowns are exerting on the industrial economy.
Makers of dishware in North Carolina, furniture foam in Oregon and cutting boards in Michigan are among the companies closing factories in recent weeks. Caterpillar Inc. said it is considering closing plants in Germany, boat-and-motorcycle-maker Polaris Inc. plans to close a plant in Syracuse, Ind., and tire maker Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plans to close a plant in Gadsden, Ala.
Those factory shutdowns will further erode an industrial workforce that has been shrinking as a share of the overall U.S. economy for decades. While manufacturing output last year surpassed a previous peak from 2007, factory employment never returned to levels reached before the financial crisis.
Again and again: this economic crisis is at bottom a public health crisis, and it cannot be solved satisfactorily absent public health measures to restore widespread confidence.