Millions of Americans are working in the gig-economy could soon discover their side hustle jobs, such as being an Uber driver, Amazon delivery driver, and or completing odd tasks for Handyman, could come to a halt (temporarily) as the Covid-19 outbreak disrupts local economies across the country.
We've noted in the past, more than 50 million Americans, or about 44% of all US workers, aged 18-64, are considered low-wage and low-skilled, have insurmountable debts (with limited savings), including auto, student, and credit card debts, are working in the gig-economy via side hustles and are most vulnerable to job losses. Many of these folks are also employed in the services sector, another corner of the job market that is high-risk of job loss if the virus outbreak starts forcing consumers to pull back on discretionary spending.
The dark side of the gig economy could soon be realized as virus impacts are starting to mount, especially in West Coast cities. Millions of gig economy workers are low paid and lack proper health insurance. Some of these folks have barebone policies that require them to pay the first few thousand dollars of medical bills.
The obvious risk to the gig economy so far is cities shutting down that forces a decline in the need for certain services, many of these folks don't have a financial safety net nor health care for if they contract the virus. It's simple: American workers aren't prepared for a pandemic.
"Tales of sky-high bills are buzzing in the media. A Miami man says he received a $3,270 bill for a voluntary coronavirus test; an American evacuated from the outbreak's epicentre in Wuhan China received a $3,918 bill for mandatory quarantine in San Diego," said the Financial Times.
As cases and deaths soar in Seattle this week, the first views of the gig economy and services sector grinding to a halt is in downtown Seattle. The area has transformed into a ghost town, as the lack of tourists and people quarantined at home has created a demand shock for the local economy.
Seattle is rapidly approaching post apocalyptic ghost town levels. Pike Place and Westlake are the emptiest I’ve ever seen pic.twitter.com/XRPCTL5t3F— Kate: my steam buns bring Lu Bu to the yard (@ArmyOfMeat) March 3, 2020
Lakshman Achuthan, the co-founder of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, told CBS This Morning that further virus impacts on American cities could put a squeeze on household budgets and lead to a decline in discretionary spending.
ECRI comments on CBS: If there are mass school closings many household budgets will feel a squeeze, hurting discretionary spending. https://t.co/VIscAiZW0Z— Lakshman Achuthan (@businesscycle) March 5, 2020
CNBC explains that gig economy workers aren't just some of the most exposed people to contract the virus, they also have no safety net as regular jobs do, such as sick days, health care, and covered expenses. CNBC's Deirdre Bosa said some gig economy workers have already seen their business halved in the last several weeks due to virus fears.
Putting this all together, as cases and deaths soar in cities across the country, local economies could grind to a halt, and this could crash the gig economy and every millennial in it, who, frankly, many of which aren't prepared for financial Armageddon unless they read ZeroHedge.