Over the past two weeks, Missouri has experienced truly eye-opening change. On March 20, Missouri had 73 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and yesterday that number eclipsed 1,800. The impact of the virus on the state’s economy has been substantial. In the last week alone, 104,230 Missourians signed up for unemployment benefits, a far cry from the fewer than four thousand who filed just a few short weeks ago. To put these numbers in context, since 1987, Missouri has never once seen weekly jobless claims exceed 25,000.
Growing concern about the spread of the coronavirus has led multiple localities to institute stay-at-home orders and order many businesses to close. We are now starting to see the impact of statewide efforts to practice social distancing on Missouri’s economy. As the number of unemployed or laid off Missourians continue to rise, it’s fair to also worry about how drastically these workforce changes will negatively impact both state and local tax revenues for the coming year. Keeping Missouri’s budget balanced, as is required by the state’s constitution, will require cuts in funding to many state programs when income and sales tax revenues come in much lower than expected.
Missourians bracing for at least another month at home should also prepare for an economic landscape that looks different going forward, because the resulting constraint on economic activity will have significant consequences.