Chapman University’s Economic Forecast Conference last week fleshed out in chilling detail the Disneyland Resort shutdown is inflicting on Orange County’s economy, as well as regionally.
Dr. Anil Puri, a Cal State Fullerton economist, presented the damage in black-and-white (you can view here, beginning at about the 1:02 mark). Puri noted the state-ordered pandemic shutdown has resulted in 45% unemployment in the leisure and hospitality sector since, which he characterized as “a huge, unprecedented decline.” Despite recovering about 100,000 jobs since then, the sector is still 29% below where it was at the beginning of 2020.
Puri opined on the impact of last month’s announcement by Disney it would layoff 28,000 cast members in its Disney Parks, Experiences and Products – which includes the Disneyland Resort.
“That is a big hit,” commented Dr. Puri. “Not only to Disneyland, but because the park is closed and no sales. But all the local restaurants and hotels that depend on Disneyland visitors are being affected by that.”
Puri illustrated how deeply the Disneyland Resort – and the economic ecosystem connected to it – impacts our regional economy. According to a recent study, the Resort’s closure resulted in the loss of 20,200 jobs and $2.1 billion in economic output in Orange County between March and September. The total lost output for Southern California was $3 billion.
Governor Newsom recently unveiled “re-opening” guidelines for theme parks. However, they are so convoluted, stringent and unrealistic that large theme parks like Disneyland will not be able to open until well into next year. In other words, the Disneyland Resort would end up being shut down for more than a year.
According to Puri, the economic consequences will be disastrous for Orange County. Even if the Resort is able to re-open in April, Orange County would lose 33,200 jobs and $3.4 billion in economic output. Regionally, those losses would be 46,000 jobs and $5 billion in economic output.
“So the sooner Disneyland opens, the better it is for a lot of people who rely, not only for their work, but also to visit Disneyland,” said Puri. “And it has a huge psychological impact on the county’s economy.”
That is massive damage to the economy – and to human beings. The loss of employment, income and individual dignity from an employment hemorrhage of that scale has serious physical and psychological health consequences for the people affected.
OC Register business columnist also documented the wreckage from the state-imposed shutdown:
My trusty spreadsheet shows a harsh tumble in the formerly fast-growth leisure and hospitality industries — dining, accommodations, and amusement and recreation. It’s a tale of two states.
The 1.42 million Californians working in these “fun” businesses in September is down 611,000 jobs since February. That’s a 30% drop from a time when the pandemic was merely an unknown.
Now, compare those layoffs with all other California industries, which have cut a collective 1.13 million workers. That’s just a 7% drop.
It’s a mixed picture within this “fun” sector, and government regulation is a key factor.
Eateries, which have seen modest reopenings, have 26% fewer workers since February. It adds up to 374,000 lost jobs, even after a summer rebound that returned nearly half the jobs — 321,000 — lost in a locked-down spring.
Hotels can be open but many choose not to due to limited interest in travel. That’s resulted in 40% fewer workers since February or 95,000 cut positions — after only 14,000 jobs being restored since spring.
And the targets of the strictest reopenings — entertainment and recreation sites such as theaters and arenas, casinos and theme parks — have cut 44% of the workforce or 142,000 jobs. There’s been little recovery with employment up just 4,000 jobs above the pandemic era’s low.
As Lansner notes, the leisure and hospitality industry is responsible for 25% of the jobs created in California during the last 20 years.
Governor Newsom has been deaf and blind to the science and data on re-opening theme parks. Nearly every other state has allowed them to re-open. Every other Disney theme park in the world has been reopened for months. Walt Disney World in Florida re-opened in July, with no negative COVID-19-related health impacts.
Yet Governor Newsom continues to clamped down beyond what science, data, justice and common sense dictate.
California’s them parks are exploring legal challenges to Newsom’s high-handed regime of ruling by decree, For the sake of Orange County’s and Anaheim’s health and well being, the sooner the better.