Pandemic, protests complicate U.S. economic recovery

As the U.S. economy slowly moves toward recovery after getting hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected over 7 million people worldwide, the situation is complex.

U.S. businesses are reopening after the months-long lockdown — a government-mandated effort to slow the spread of the virus. While a number of businesses have expressed optimism about the economy’s reopening, others note there are challenges ahead.

On a hot evening earlier this week, diners sat at outdoor tables at Founding Farmers restaurant in Washington D.C.

“It’s difficult, complicated, but we’re starting to see signs of optimism,” Farmers Restaurant Group Co-Owner Dan Simons told Xinhua.

Speaking about the coming summer months, Simons said: “I think there’s a lot more difficulty to come, with regard to business models and cash flows, and long term business viability.”

“We just need to try to set some of that aside as we at least focus on how to serve diners safely and start to generate revenue, and then we’ll cross the bridge of business viability as we see if we can build revenue,” Simons said.

The restaurant is following the trend of a number of others nationwide, of offering more outdoor seating, much like the plazas of European cities such as Rome and Paris.

Simons said that part of the company’s plan is to keep that permanently going. Some diners were quite positive on the new outdoor seating, saying it provided a relaxing atmosphere in a new, clean outdoor space.

At Mosaic District, an enclave of shops and restaurants in Northern Virginia, outside Washington D.C., restaurants have recently moved from takeout to outdoor service.

At Caboose Commons, patrons filled the outdoor eating space. One staff member, who did not give his name, told Xinhua that he expects the place to continue to be busy into the summer.

But while people may be eager to get back to dining out, the economy is not out of the woods yet. The jobless rate remains at its highest since the Great Depression in the 1930s, despite a May jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that saw the economy add 2.5 million jobs as states began to reopen.

This week saw the Federal Reserve head warn that the economy still has a long way to go. The Fed projected Wednesday that the U.S. economy will shrink by 6.5 percent in 2020, followed by a 5-percent gain next year.

In a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the economic projections were made with the general expectation that the economic recovery will begin in the second half of the year and last over the next couple of years.

That statement prompted the Dow Jones Industrial Average to take a nose dive of 1,800 points on Thursday, on jittery investors’ concerns over the economy — sparked by a rise in COVID-19 cases in some areas of the country.

But at the same time, big tech companies including Facebook, Microsoft and Tesla continue to fare well, seeing only a slight drop during Thursday’s sell-off, after the Nasdaq Composite soared to record highs the previous day.

Indeed, Wednesday saw the Nasdaq surge past 10,000 for the first time, boosted by strong gains in tech shares as millions of Americans are working from home, watching more streaming video and using more technology in general.

Concerns also abound that protesters may be helping the spread of the virus, after the recent death of unarmed African American George Floyd at the hands of police sparked a wave of protests and riots nationwide.

Some Americans remain fearful of the virus, and are still avoiding close contact with strangers, despite an easing of the lockdown.

One nail salon employee at an establishment outside Washington D.C., who declined to give her name, told Xinhua that while the place just reopened in recent weeks, people are still hesitant to come in for fear of getting sick.

At the same time, many Americans believe fears of the virus are overwrought, as COVID-19 disproportionately impacts the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

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