Economic impact of eclipse likely to outweigh losses

Monday, August 21, 2017

Busloads of children were taking the day off from school, the county courthouse took a few hours off and lots of employees took late lunch hours or extended their regular break to take in todayís solar eclipse.

The Gazette hoped to print as scheduled today, but our drivers and paper carriers were advised to take special care delivering the paper in the unusual mid-day darkness.

We donít blame people for taking notice; even if they werenít caught up in the hype, there was plenty of reason to be excited if you donít remember the 1979 total eclipse, that only hit part of the United States. Weíre sure they donít remember the June 8, 1918 eclipse, the last one that traversed the continent coast-to-coast.

We hope no one loses a job over playing hooky to watch the eclipse, but outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimated the U.S. economy would lose $694 million during the 20-minute eclipse, an amount a company official said was a conservative estimate.

It will be an unusual employee who doesnít poke their head outdoors for a moment when the sky goes dark, he said.

The Chicago firm used a figure of 82.8 percent of employees who would be at work today, with 14.8 percent of those working a shift later than the time of the eclipse.

Then using an average hourly wage of $23.86 for employed workers 16 and over, Challenger, Gray & Christmas came up with the total estimated loss.

States and metro areas directly in the path of totality could see almost $200 million in lost productivity alone, the company estimated.

We think they may have missed an important factor, in Nebraskaís case, at least.

Our thinly-populated state has seen an influx of visitors like none we have experienced before. Motels were full of cars from far-flung states, all headed north early this morning to pre-arranged viewing spots.

Our bet is, the economic shot-in-the-arm resulting from a happy celestial coincidence will outweigh any loss of lunchtime production many times over.

We hope the multitudes of visitors take time to enjoy some of Nebraskaís other attractions while taking their time to carefully make their way home.

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