FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — The coronavirus death toll has passed 2,000 people, but nobody in Arkansas has been diagnosed so far. Still, the outbreak’s aftermath could have a negative impact on the state’s economy, said one University of Arkansas economist.
It’s about Chinese imports, said Mervin Jebaraj, Director for the Center for Business & Economic Research at the UofA’s Walton College of Business. Chinese manufacturing slowed down because of well-documented tariffs and the spreading virus.
If the situation continues to escalate, Arkansans will see the hit first in the trucking industry then manufacturing, Jebaraj said. Trucks haul parts from the West Coast, but delayed part shipments would result in fewer truckloads. Manufacturers that use those parts would then feel the brunt of the impact.
“People are gonna try to look for other suppliers, but there really isn’t a sizable supplier out there that can replace China easily,” Jebaraj said. “In the short run, we’re gonna just wait and see.”
There’s not much the trucking and manufacturing industries in Arkansas can do other than wait, Jebaraj said. It’s unlikely the companies would scrap their whole supply chains to prepare for something that may or may not happen.
Nothing drastic has happened yet and could be avoided depending on the virus’ trajectory, but if it keeps spreading, those industries could be in trouble, Jebaraj said.