‘Tis the season to be thankful for a bountiful harvest.
Coronavirus and its variants made 2021 a difficult year in many ways for many people, especially economically speaking. Yet numerous business patterns charted a course to be grateful for – even if you haven’t been lucky enough to be helped by any or all of these moves.
In the spirit of holiday gratitude, I offer my appreciation of 10 trends in the commercial world that we’ve witnessed since our last traditional turkey meal — without noting the conundrums, complications, consequences or controversies tied to these swings.
California bosses added 811,000 workers in the past year as the pandemic’s economic throttle has been lessened.
Big winners were leisure and hospitality workers rehired as the business of having fun enjoyed a modest return to normal.
Other industries with big staffing increases were business services, education and health, and transportation.
Bosses scrambled to restaff their business and competition for talent in many industries has become heated.
As a result, paychecks grew — and in some cases, by a large amount.
Southern California’s wages and salaries rose at a 6.5% annual rate in the 12 months ended in September, up from 3.1% a year earlier, according to one federal pay index.
In the Bay Area, the same index showed 3.3% gains — down from 4% a year earlier.
Mortgage rates are a bit higher this Thanksgiving — an average 3.1% vs. 2.8% a year ago.
But anybody with even a few gray hairs knows 3.1% is a massive bargain.
The use of historically low interest rates to keep the economy flowing during in the pandemic era benefited many consumers and corporations – especially those owning, or wanting to own, real estate.
The California pace of house purchases will hit a post-Great Recession high this year.
That’s because numerous challenges created by coronavirus nudged lots of households to become homeowners.
Cramped living quarters — multiplied by how many in a household were working or school at home — made a housing upgrade a necessity.
Those with the nerve to invest on Wall Street were well paid for their risk-taking.
I’ll simply note the year’s 35% gain in the Nasdaq stock index — a technology-laden benchmark filled with Corporate California’s many success stories.
That steep appreciation not only gave many households added cash to spend — further boosting the economy and company bottom lines — it’s a key reason why the state government has another huge surplus.
Stock winners usually pay capital gains taxes.
Working from home
In October, 11.6% of U.S. workers did their jobs from home due to issues related to the pandemic, government stats show.
Yes, that’s half of remote work’s peak levels in late 2020 — but it’s still high enough to reveal noteworthy flexibility in the workplace.
Love it or hate it, remote working allowed the economy to move ahead in challenging times. And it’s a tool that gives both bosses and worker bees numerous options for the future.
The year’s hot spot for respite wasn’t a glitzy resort or some new twist at a theme park.
Rather it was Mother Nature. For example, national park attendance soared 23% in the year. Yosemite? Up 46%. Death Valley? Up 44%. Joshua Tree? Up 34%.
Vast open space became the must-go relief for the crowded life of the pandemic era — whether that be a stroll in a local greenbelt, a camping trip or visiting a landmark slice of landscape.
If you weren’t comfortable shopping in stores or dining in a restaurant, there was an ample supply of businesses that would bring the goods you needed to your home.
Not only did delivery ease some of life’s strains, it helped folks find goods that were in short supply, too.
And as a plus, it created new employers and jobs, with 721,000 Californians in transportation and warehouse jobs in October.
That up 39,000 in the pandemic era — rare to see industries with more jobs since coronavirus struck.
EV sales spark
Electric vehicle sales in California are two-thirds higher than pre-pandemic 2019.
Major reason why: Gasoline’s above $4.50 a gallon in most of California.
Wild, pandemic-related swings in energy demand and output forced crude oil prices to seven-year highs. Refiners passed along the cost of gasoline’s main ingredient — and drivers now face severe pain at the pumps.
Well, unless your ride is powered differently. Like mine.
Vaccines were created at record speed that dramatically slashes one’s risk of serious illness or death from coronavirus.
The treatment was available nationwide to all — for free, thanks to government largesse.
And, thankfully, this science saved the lives of an estimated quarter-million Americans.
Jonathan Lansner is business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]