When coronavirus cases began surging across the South this summer, the region seemed destined for the same economic setback the Northeast suffered during the spring.
But by the end of summer, the South's economy remained largely unscathed from the wave of infections. Its unemployment rate had fallen to 6.9%, the lowest of any region in August.
More from the WSJ report:
Many economists say the pace of economic recovery depends on the path of the virus. The South's economic resilience shows the relationship is more complicated, at least in the short term.
The South is diverse with 16 states, including Texas, Florida, Virginia and Oklahoma, and not all shared the same pattern. Nonetheless, as a whole it owes its stronger economic trajectory since the initial shutdown not to success in containing the virus but to its relatively aggressive reopening of business and a greater willingness by consumers to venture out despite risks.
'In the South, I think that the more pro-business policies that Southern governors have largely followed for decades allowed much more flexibility earlier,' said Mark Vitner, a Charlotte, N.C.-based economist at Wells Fargo Securities. 'We did see a rise in Covid infections over the summer. That slowed the pace of reopenings, but it didn't reverse it.'
Public-health experts say the South's early reopening came at a price: higher rates of virus infections and deaths starting over the summer, illustrating a trade-off between the economy and health.
With Fewer Covid Restrictions, the South’s Economy Outperforms Nation. Lowest unemployment rates in the US, relatively strong job openings—but bigger rise in infections and deaths. https://t.co/SzMRNLn52i pic.twitter.com/Izz1yHpvL1— Michael Nardi (@iPublicPolicy) October 17, 2020
Just the News reviewed U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment data by state for August (the latest data available) and found that 9 of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates are are led by Republican governors.
"You're seeing very large variation across blue and red states right now and the extent to which economies are turning back on," Hassett told Just the News back in May, "and I think that that's probably the story of the data that's probably most under-told right now."
"[It's] definitely the case," Hassett emphasized, "that the economies are picking up quicker right now in places that are opening up."
"As astounding as the recent economic renaissance in American has been, the reality is that far too many lockdown governors are a drag upon the process, imposing unreasonable restrictions upon their states' economic activity for purely political motives," Steve Cortes, an economic advisor to the Trump campaign, told Just the News. "As strong as the V-shaped recovery is in America, it could be even better if the oppressive governors of many blue states would allow citizens to fully begin the process back to normalcy with safe openings of businesses, schools, sports etc."
A tale of two COVID economies: Red state recovery, blue state recession | Just The News https://t.co/q7qo0sYLNw— John Solomon (@jsolomonReports) October 15, 2020