Dave Moore, Staff Writer
If the Dallas Region can keep its workforce and businesses in place, it should be in good shape to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, said Texas economist Ray Perryman during a April 15 virtual media roundtable organized by the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Research and Innovation team.
“If we get a handle on the health problem, and we keep the infrastructure of the economy, then I think we will can come back from this a lot better than we did last time,” Perryman said, referring to the housing finance crash of 2008. “I think there’s nothing broken, fundamentally, in the economy.”
However, Perryman said the drop in the economy has been so sudden and drastic, stabilizing businesses and the workforce will be a challenge. He said some businesses can’t survive without a month of revenue.
“The stimulus package isn’t perfect, but the perfect can’t be the enemy of the essential,” he said. “We have to keep small businesses together. We have to keep people’s lives together.”
Perryman estimated that COVID-19 would be a massive hit to both the federal and state economies: impacting a projected one million jobs statewide in March, including more than 208,000 jobs in the Dallas Region.
For comparison, the total job loss in the 2008 bust was 400,000 jobs statewide, he said.
Perryman said that Texas wasn’t disproportionately impacted when the housing bubble burst in 2008, and the state might be resilient in this case as well. Perryman forecast that while conventional retail might not rebound quickly, the health care, telecom, online retail, and governmental sectors are situated to benefit in the post-COVID-19 economy.
“I think economic development is going to change its ways,” Perryman said. “I think people are going to look a whole lot more at public health and safety nets, in siting locations.”
Perryman stressed that it’s crucial that the community resolve COVID-19 in order to restore the economy, and consumer confidence. However, he also cautioned against reopening the economy too early as a resurgent pandemic might be even more damaging than the first.
“The caution I’m giving to the folks I talk to is that we don’t want to do this twice,” Perryman said. “We need to get the economy running as soon as we can, but not at the risk of creating a second wave. We have a very resilient economy, and we can come back from a lot of things. But if we had to open up and have to shut down in a couple months, that would be a very difficult situation.”