When British officials attributed the U.K. economy's contraction in the
fourth quarter of 2010 to wintry weather, we know of at least one snow-hardened Montreal resident who scoffed at the claim.
But as the U.S. braces
for yet another barrage of ice and snow--with the National Weather
Service issuing winter storm warnings for 19 states and blizzard
warnings for six Midwestern states--it seems reasonable to ask: Is this
winter's severe weather enfeebling an already-feeble American economy? The answer appears to be yes. Here's how:
- Cash-Strapped Municipalities Are Hardest Hit, reports
A.G. Sulzberger at The New York Times. He explains that many cities
have already overspent their snow-removal budgets but face enormous
pressure from their constituents to clear snow swiftly, forcing them to
cut other government services rather than cut back on plows or salt. In
Kansas City, Sulzberger notes, it costs the government about $150,000
per inch of snow.
- Weather Comes at Worst Time, asserts
Jonathan Berr at 24/7 Wall St. He says that record snowfalls are
battering municipalities that "were already struggling with high
unemployment, a stagnant housing market and decreased state aid caused
by the economic slowdown." On top of all that, he adds, fuel and salt
prices are rising.
- Bad Weather in General Is Bad for Economic Activity, argues
Kathleen Madigan at MarketWatch. Severe weather, she says, "keeps
workers from getting to the job, closes production facilities, shuts
down airports and curtails the delivery of goods," while also keeping
consumers holed up at home rather than out at restaurants or movie
theaters. She adds that since inclement conditions affect housing more
than any other sector, storms in the South--home to half of all new house construction
in America--may have a significant
impact on the U.S. economy.
- Businesses Shouldn't Lose Hope, states
Sylvia Maria Gross at Marketplace. She reports that some restaurants,
inspired by sites like Groupon, are enticing people into their stores
on snow days by offering deals through social media and e-mail. Spin
Neopolitan Pizza, for example, has a 20-percent-off "crummy weather voucher," while
Chipotle offers 50 percent off, plus free chips and guacamole, to
anyone willing to brave the snow for a burrito.
- Here's Just How Much Snow Costs Mint assembles an infographic that calculates the financial impact of America's snowstorms in terms of forfeited retail sales, canceled flights, lost productivity, and accidents: