Federal Reserve Bank

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) --The Federal Reserve Bank released its Beige Book, which details economic conditions around the country.

"Our economy has taken a sharp decline everywhere, across the board."

That was the comment from Charles Gascon, the regional economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

"And it's not just here," Gaston said. "It's everywhere."

In the Beige Book's summary of the St. Louis region, the report reads: "in the worst cases, firms are expecting zero revenue in April and possibly May."

Gascon says the hardest hit areas are larger cities, and specifically, college towns who depend on students to spur their economies.

Life at the beginning of the COVID-19 response was particularly rough for the banking and transportation industries. Gascon says there was confusion and some panic early on, but both industries have stabilized, although some forms of their business has slowed.

Among the hardest hit St. Louis areas: auto manufacturers, restaurants, retail and hospitality. Those few who have remained opened have seen their workforce cut up to 90%. The average restaurant has seen a decline in workers of roughly 60%.

For Gascon, the key is how we handle the recovery, whenever that is. He had strong words of advice for anybody running a business.

"I would tell any organization to focus on keeping their workers safe. That is the only way you are going to stay staffed in this environment," Gascon said.

According to the state, 229,298 Missourians claimed for unemployment due to the coronavirus outbreak as of April 4. The highest number of unemployment claims was filed in St. Louis County at 32,829. A little over 18,000 people filed claims in St. Louis City. 

Gascon says the healthcare industry has been hit very hard.

"People are not having elective surgeries. That is a lot of income for health care providers, and it's led to layoffs," Gascon said.

If there is good news in the report, it's the real estate sector. Realtors reported being optimistic through March, and even into early April. But now, they expect a hardening thaw.

What will coming out of the COVID-19 crisis look like? Gascon says it depends on the business.

"We see large venue sectors, with lots of people, having cancellations through June right now," Gascon said. "There are bookings for the fall, but we will have to see. That's going be be a tougher opening. Smaller gatherings, like restaurants or retailers should recover sooner."

And how soon might that be? 

"I would guess more of a U-shaped recovery," Gascon said. "That looks like the best case scenario right now."

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