Hello everyone and welcome back to a miniseries I’m doing called A Personal History of Silicon Valley Recessions.
This is a five part series of what it was like to go through two (and now starting three) recessions in Silicon Valley.
This is part four titled Global Pandemic Recession and it’s about the recession that the COVID-19 created when the world shut down overnight.
If you’re just tuning in, I’d highly recommend listening to the other three parts so you get the Full Monty so to speak.
Most of you listening know this one since you’re living through a version of it now. More on that in part 5.
What’s interesting about the COVID 19 recession was how short lived it was.
Literally 2 months starting in February of 2020 and ending in April 2022 but I don’t think that’s the full story.
Sure, the official recession was over quick but there were lasting changes in the economy and labor markets as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded.
What was surprising was the quick spike in unemployment and GDP growth followed by a rebound or what economists call a “V” shaped recovery.
Still, while the normal recession indicators might have recovered, it certainly did not feel like progress.
One thing that was interesting about the early times of the pandemic was my participation on the San Francisco Economics Recovery Task Force.
This diverse group of all sorts of leaders was chartered by Mayor Breed to figure out ways to keep the economy going and plan for when the pandemic would be over.
While an official recession might have been over, San Francisco leadership was worried that the reduction in the tourist driven economy coupled with a shut down of live/in person events would cripple the economy.
It was fascinating to be part of something like this since we would get briefings from the Department of Public Health, the city economist, and various depart heads.
So what does this all mean?
If you look around the city you live in, you’ll probably see what I see – closed businesses that could not make it through even a couple of months shut down.
Couple that with the new work from home shift and downtowns, like San Francisco, are ghost towns.
When people stop going downtown, things get out of hand or rather the normal care and nurturing of the culture goes into decline.
You see this play out everyday both on the news and when you walk or drive downtown.
To add even more fuel to the fire was the whole quiet quitting and actual quitting from folks that were fed up and wanted to prioritize life instead of work.
One of the other important things to consider was the different ways communities reacted to the pandemic and how setup they were to handle it.
In San Francisco, the lockdown was taken a lot more seriously. Schools were closed for longer than most places. Vaccines were mandated to stop the spread.
In the early days of pandemic, this was considered prudent and the results showed it.
Our discussions on the Task Force revolved around how to support businesses so they could continue on given the restrictions. It was a tough balancing act since back then, no one really understood how things would play out.
Once restrictions were relaxed, it was still hard to understand how that would impact the economy. There were several fits and starts. Openings and closing that made everything that much more difficult.
This led more folks than normal to flee San Francisco (and even California) for other states like Texas.
Movement like this is common during recessions. It happened both in 2000 and 2008 but not at the scale seen.
Some argued that San Francisco and Silicon Valley were done.
Too expensive. Too much crime. No longer fun.
Why would I live in a place when I can just work from home anywhere?
This mix was an even more perfect storm for what was to come, which we’ll talk about in the last part.
Thanks for listening to part four of A Personal History of Silicon Valley Recessions, Global Pandemic Recession.
Stay tuned for part five, which will bring us up through the present day.
Until next time, chin up, shoulders back, and keep grinding
Additional Episodes in the Series
Part 1: Born in the Right Place
Part 2: We'll Make it Up on Volume
Part 3: The Great Recession