Roy Gilbert

Coronavirus darkens Oregon’s economic outlook, but impacts are muted — for now

TriMet buses in downtown Portland

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TriMet says ridership was normal in February and down two days last week. The transit agency says it’s too soon to say if the coronavirus is the reason. Airlines are canceling flights. People are quarantining themselves. Supermarkets are selling out of toilet paper. The financial markets are tanking.

All around there are signs of economic fear and disruption. And yet for most Oregonians, the tangible effects of the coronavirus outbreak are still relatively muted.

No Oregon deaths are linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and just 14 people statewide have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The majority of workers are still going into the office, grocery shelves are still full, buses and trains appear to be operating at normal levels and thus far, no Oregonian employers have reported layoffs related to the outbreak.

Investors and economists agree the coronavirus outbreak represents a major upheaval but just what shape that upheaval takes — and how long it lasts — remain highly uncertain.

“Fears over the human and economic impact could potentially reach critical mass where consumers pull back and delay spending money and employers put off hiring and investment decisions,” Oregon state economist Josh Lehner wrote in an analysis last week .

“If enough firms and households do this at the same time, then a recession ensues as growth plunges,” Lehner wrote. “We’re not there today.”In some ways it’s hard to tell just what’s going on. Even in an era of instant communication and knee-jerk reactions, data about regional economic indicators is slow […]

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