As states reopened their economies in various phases throughout May and June, it quickly became clear that simply being open is not enough to get firing on all cylinders again. First, there are safety regulations limiting how many patrons a business can serve at a time. Just as important is consumer confidence. If shoppers don’t feel safe visiting a business, they’re not going to, and there’s no forcing them. Some services requiring intimate personal contact have an even harder time with this. Just because someone can get a massage or a tattoo doesn’t mean they’re comfortable with it.
Consumer confidence was higher than expected in May, hitting 86.6 on The Conference Board scale, up from 85.7 in April and more than 4 points higher than a Dow Jones poll of economists predicted. “Following two months of rapid decline, the free-fall in confidence stopped in May,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement. “Short-term expectations moderately increased as the gradual re-opening of the economy helped improve consumers’ spirits.”
That’s a great sign, obviously. People emerging from some form of shelter at home order in more than 95% of the US were thrilled to have something to do and somewhere to go. Domestic travel began to return, though some states discouraged out-of-state visitors by requiring a 14-day quarantine. Warm weather meant restaurants could accommodate outdoor seating to help ease the pain of having to limit capacity. More nonessential businesses reopening meant more people receiving a steady paycheck and spending some of it. Some economic activity replaced virtually none.
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