2020 Hindsight

A car rearview mirror looking back at the numbers 2020 on fire.

Yes, hindsight is 2020, and there is no doubt that every person on this planet is anxious to put this 2020 year in their rearview mirror. However, hindsight is only valuable if you can take the past lessons and apply them to the future.

The top item on the list of things we would like to put in the past is, of course, COVID-19. Although we have learned a lot about the virus since the first confirmed U.S. case on January 20 of this year, we still have a few months to go before we can start to breathe comfortably. Most experts agree that it will be mid-summer before we reach full immunization status. In the meantime, we continue to maintain social distancing, wear masks, and wash our hands regularly.

However, due to the COVID pandemic, we have also learned a lot about ourselves, our businesses, and the environment.

Isolation – Staying quarantined was perhaps the most significant mental challenge that people faced. Those without families relied on social media and ZOOM for their social interaction. Many people took early measures to bring close family members under one roof, creating a close social support system. However, all relationships involve a degree of conflict—and it’s normal to argue more during stressful times. This pandemic has amplified mental health issues and relationship strains. By April, the interest in divorce had increased by 34% in the U.S., with newer couples being most likely to file for divorce. In fact, a full 20% of couples who had been married for five months or less sought divorce during this period, compared with only 11% in 2019. Alcohol and substance abuse have also risen sharply, with a reported 55% increase in alcohol consumption—18% reporting a significant increase—and a reported 36% increase in illicit drug use.

Shopping – They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Since the founding of Amazon in 1994, the trend toward online shopping has been growing, but the COVID pandemic has accelerated that trend much faster than it would have grown organically. Even people who had never shopped online quickly adapted to placing grocery and food orders by phone or through an app, either driving to the location to have the order placed directly into their car or paying a little extra for home delivery. It did not take long for businesses to figure out that they had to develop online options and get the word out quickly if they were to continue selling products.

Telecommuting – The term “telecommuting” was first coined in 1972 by Jack Nilles, who was working remotely, in Italy, on a complex NASA communication system. By 2017, an estimated 3.7 million employees—2.8% of the workforce—worked from home at least half the time. As with online shopping, telecommuting exploded almost overnight, and the latest estimates are that 56% of the U.S. workforce is working from home or some remote location.

Employment – There is no doubt that in addition to the death toll from COVID, jobs, and income tops the list of significant issues facing families and individuals. The average unemployment rate peaked at an unprecedented level, not seen since data collection started in 1948, in April 2020 (14.7%) before declining to a still-elevated level in November (6.7%). However, individual sectors experienced even higher unemployment levels. Notably, the leisure and hospitality industry experienced an unemployment rate of 39.3% in April, before declining to 15.0% in November.

Climate Change – Not all aspects of the pandemic shutdown were negative. When people stopped commuting to work or driving in general, most metropolitan areas in the U.S. and worldwide saw much cleaner air above their cities. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a greenhouse gas, decreased 25.5% from historical levels and fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which affects the lungs, significantly decreased.

However, despite the COVID-related decreases in pollutants, 2020 still ranked and the second hottest year on record for the Earth, based on records that date back to 1880. The average global temperature in 2020 is 1.2°C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level. Scientists are striving to keep temperatures below the critical threshold of 1.5°C above pre-industrial era levels.

Being one of the hottest years on record also brought disasters. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active ever, with 31 tropical depressions, of which 30 became tropical storms. Thirteen became hurricanes, including six major hurricanes. In the U.S. and Canada alone, there were 52,113 wildfires that burned 8,889,297 acres. This is approximately 2.3 million more acres burned than the 10-year average and almost double the acreage burned in the 2019 season. An estimated 46 million acres have burned in Australia, destroying 5,900 buildings (including 2,779 homes) and killing at least 34 people.

Using Hindsight

Humans are social beings and creatures of habit. Being forced into isolation has a dramatic effect on our mental state. And, when forced to adapt to change, it is much more difficult for some than others. As our population grows and communities become more crowded, Mental Health Programs become even more critical. We need to better prepare for the next pandemic.

While the number of telecommuters is expected to shrink after the COVID virus is no longer a threat, estimates are that 25% to 30% of the workforce will continue working remotely. Businesses are currently reassessing the need for office space, and the real estate market will likely transform. Home designers might introduce more products with functional office spaces that can be segregated from the household’s noise and confusion.

Governments will need to develop plans to handle more unemployed workers and those families needing assistance with food and medicine. And, of course, building and maintaining a plan to stave off further climate change is essential.

Climate Change had made natural disasters more prevalent, as the oceans have warmed, causing winter and summer storms, when they happen, to become more intense. Other areas are seeing less rain, which provides fuel for fires. Controlling greenhouse gasses is essential. Also, avoiding construction in historic flooding and dense forest areas would save billions in structure damage and lives.

Hindsight is 2020, and we need to study this year in detail to learn the lessons it has presented.

At Business Finance Corporation, we use our experience and hindsight to help you with your business’s vision. Call us today and be ready for the next market recession or the next time you need to turn your hard-earned receivables into cash. We can be reached at https://bfc.vegas/ or call 702-947-3800.

Your Partner in Success,

David Cabral