Friday, May 22, 2020

Some Industries Won’t Have a Reopening Comeback

Lifting lockdowns will revive many businesses. The same can’t be said of traditional retailers, colleges and cinemas.

All is not lost. Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images North America

By Noah Smith

There will still be a U.S. economy after Covid-19. People are going to need food, shelter, entertainment, health care, transportation and so on. But the shape of that economy -- what people buy and what they do without -- will change.

Some businesses that make it through the acute stage of the crisis will shrink or vanish afterward, while some that shuttered will spring up again, reborn. It’s very difficult to anticipate these long-term shifts while the pandemic is still raging. But investment and hiring decisions have to be made, and an educated guess is better than nothing.

One industry that seems unlikely to recover is higher education. The pandemic is accelerating trends that were already in place -- reductions in state funding for colleges, a decline in high-paying foreign students and a broad decrease in demand. It’s also possible that the temporary adoption of online teaching during shutdowns will precipitate a longer-term move to distance education in lieu of expensive college classes on campus.

Meanwhile, the disappearance of foreign graduate students will hamstring science, technology and math research at universities, weakening the nexus of university-private collaboration that sustains investment and job growth in college towns.  Read more >>