Jonathan Schechter

Schechter

A community survey in early May found people’s outlook for Jackson Hole’s economy in the coming year is more pessimistic than what was seen in a similar survey a month earlier.

For example, respondents in May’s “Where Is Our Economy Heading?” survey believed taxable sales this coming summer would fall 51%, while April’s predictions were for a 38% decline.

In April respondents predicted autumn’s taxable sales would fall 25%. May’s respondents guessed a 42% drop. Looking ahead to winter 2020-21, respondents also had a darker forecast, anticipating a 35% decline in sales compared to April’s collective guess, which predicted a 19% drop.

The survey was conducted by economist and Jackson Town Councilor Jonathan Schechter as part of the “Co-Thrive” initiative at his Charture Institute.

The questionnaire was open May 7 through May 13 and drew responses from 460 people. That’s fewer than the 800-something who participated in the April effort, but the demographics were the same, Schechter said. In addition, the content of the two surveys differed a bit, so there’s no perfect apples-to-apples comparison.

The May survey ended just as a wave of reopenings was beginning in Jackson’s retail community and before restaurants started resuming in-house dining.

Schechter also said in the text of the survey results that “the May survey was taken before Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks announced their opening dates for 2020. How that announcement might affect the community’s collective outlook about the local economy is not reflected in these results.”

The comments section of the survey makes for interesting reading.

“Negativity everywhere. Overreactions everywhere,” one comment said, while another read, “Returning to a work environment dealing with tourists & high risk of Covid exposure is terrifying.”

Asked about the pace of recovery, many comments said it would depend on whether there’s a second wave of COVID-19 cases or whether an effective vaccine becomes available.

One said: “Until the level of testing can be done on essentially everyone we will not have any confidence in the extent to which the virus has and is spreading among the population. Until there’s a vaccine or significant advances in treatment there will not be a comfort level in interacting socially, especially in crowded environments, which will have a ripple effect for years.”

Another commenter predicted that “things are going to be financially ugly. And unfortunately the majority of those who will be traveling, arriving here, will be those who believe Covid-19 is not big deal or is even ‘fake news.’”

Yet another said, “The way people are behaving, I think our second wave will be way worse than the first in Wyoming. If 80% of the population would wear masks, this could be over quick. But they won’t.”

Other comments reflected a completely different perspective, like this one:

“There is no question that we have a virus but the numbers are, in most areas, less that a typical flew season [sic]. We have been hoaxed by some very powerful people to trash our economy. We can only hope and pray that President Trump and others can bring us out of this recession with minimal damage.”

Contact Jennifer Dorsey at jennifer@jhnewsandguide.com or 732-5908.

Jennifer Dorsey is chief copy editor and Business section coordinator. She worked in Washington, D.C., and Chicago before moving to the Tetons.

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