Eclipsing petty microeconomics

by Chris Becker

There’s going to be a total solar eclipse across most of the continental United States today (well, their today, we’ll all be asleep) and given the uniqueness of the event, there’s been some hyperbowl and superbowl like reporting on it.

This one takes the cake though. A consultancy firm reckons the eclipse will cost the US economy a cool $700 million. From Reuters:

American employers will see at least $694 million in missing output for the roughly 20 minutes that outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates workers will take out of their workday on Monday to stretch their legs, head outside the office and gaze at the nearly two-and-a-half minute eclipse.

According to Andy Challenger, the estimate for how much time workers will ultimately lose to the eclipse  – approximately 20 minutes – is probably conservative. That’s because some people might take additional time to set up their telescopes, or just linger outdoors on what’s expected to be a beautiful summer day. To get to $700 million figure, Challenger took one-third of the latest reading for US workers’ average hourly wage and multiplied it by the number of all workers 16 and over.By this logic, the final figure might be too generous, because only about half of Americans say they plan on watching the eclipse, according to a survey conducted earlier this month. Though that figure rises to 60% for workers in the eclipse’s narrow “zone of totality.”

Challenger also pointed out that the eclipse will have an outsize impact on smaller companies because “when 3 or 4 people are missing from an office of 15, it’s a lot more disruptive.” But whatever the impact, it likely won’t be large enough to register in macroeconomic data, Challenger said.

As a result, employers worried about the money-losing impact of the eclipse would be better served by banning social media in the office.

How about the uncalculated benefits of not having mindless workers sitting down in an office or behind a cash register, but actually getting out of their chair, putting down the Facebook and witnessing some real science and awe? And the positive mood that such an event, enhanced by witnessing with others, would provide both individually and collectively?

At least it would have them stop talking about Trump and his relentless march on dividing America? With the added bonus in disproving the flat earth wankers (not that that is hard).

This is petty microeconomics, which seeks to eke out every last dying breath of pointless productivity “enhancements” without solving any major macroeconomic problems. For instance, the failing US education system where most Americans don’t know how an eclipse works. Or the obese population, where some may actually find the 20 minutes they spend standing up and walking around to watch the eclipse the only exercise they go that week. Or the failing infrastructure upon which many will be perched to watch the disappearing sun.

You can watch the eclipse here via NASA’s feed:

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  1. Professional services firm sees PR opportunity in mindless use of data to grab media attention.

  2. Some woman on Facebook asked if they could do the eclipse a day early because kids will be in school Monday when it happens…

  3. Previous eclipses in this series led into WWI, 1918 flu pandemic, American civil war. Just sayin’.

  4. Ronin8317MEMBER

    If the boss allows you to go out for 20 minutes during office hour, then you must not be doing anything productive anyway.

  5. At least it would have them stop talking about Trump and his relentless march on dividing America? With the added bonus in disproving the flat earth wankers (not that that is hard).

    I believe that the Flat Earthers have a canopy model where the sun and moon wander around and there is a covered gutter around the edge so they can travel back to the starting point unseen. Occasionally, the moon crosses in front of the sun. Simples!

  6. Bullshit economics!
    Who says that anyone who takes the time to watch it won’t make up the time that evening or some other time. Who says that there will be work to be done when they and others will be watching the eclipse. Maybe it’s just deferral of work and shopping?
    Myabe the loss of production will just reduce stockpiles in some cases? There are so many confounding factors that are not acknowledge that this opinion on lost production is so simplistic as to reduce the reputation of those who expounded it.
    Maybe it’s just a virtue signalling statement to potential hard nosed potential clients?

  7. adelaide_economistMEMBER

    It’s up there with the usual Murdoch press ‘scares’ on what sick days ‘cost’ the economy.

  8. >This is petty microeconomics, which seeks to eke out every last dying breath of pointless productivity “enhancements”

    Total eclipse of the heart