What’s At Risk: An 18-Month View of a Post-COVID World
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What’s At Risk: An 18-Month View of a Post-COVID World

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What's At Risk 18 Month View of COVID-19 Risks

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What’s At Risk: An 18-Month View of a Post-COVID World

As the world continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, no part of society seems to be left unscathed. Fears are surmounting around the economy’s health, and dramatic changes in life as we know it are also underway.

In today’s graphic, we use data from a World Economic Forum survey of 347 risk analysts on how they rank the likelihood of major risks we face in the aftermath of the pandemic.

What are the most likely risks for the world over the next year and a half?

The Most Likely Risks

In the report, a “risk” is defined as an uncertain event or condition with the potential for significant negative impacts on various countries and industries. The 31 risks have been grouped into five major categories:

  • Economic: 10 risks
  • Societal: 9 risks
  • Geopolitical: 6 risks
  • Technological: 4 risks
  • Environmental: 2 risks

Among these, risk analysts rank economic factors high on their list, but the far-reaching impacts of the remaining factors are not to be overlooked either. Let’s dive deeper into each category.

Economic Shifts

The survey reveals that economic fallout poses the most likely threat in the near future, dominating four of the top five risks overall. With job losses felt the world over, a prolonged recession has 68.6% of experts feeling worried.

RankEconomic Risk%
#1Prolonged recession of the global economy68.6%
#2Surge in bankruptcies (big firms and SMEs) and a wave of industry consolidation56.8%
#3Failure of industries or sectors in certain countries to properly recover55.9%
#4High levels of structural unemployment (especially youth)49.3%
#6Weakening of fiscal positions in major economies45.8%
#7Protracted disruption of global supply chains42.1%
#8Economic collapse of an emerging market or developing economy38.0%
#16Sharp increase in inflation globally20.2%
#20Massive capital outflows and slowdown in foreign direct investment17.9%
#21Sharp underfunding of retirement due to pension fund devaluation17.6%

The pandemic has accelerated structural change in the global economic system, but this does not come without consequences. As central banks offer trillions of dollars worth in response packages and policies, this may inadvertently burden countries with even more debt.

Another concern is that COVID-19 is now hitting developing economies hard, critically stalling the progress they’ve been making on the world stage. For this reason, 38% of the survey respondents anticipate this may cause these markets to collapse.

Social Anxieties

High on everyone’s mind is also the possibility of another COVID-19 outbreak, despite global efforts to flatten the curve of infections.

RankSocietal Risk%
#10Another global outbreak of COVID-19 or different infectious disease30.8%
#13Governmental retention of emergency powers and/or erosion of civil liberties23.3%
#14Exacerbation of mental health issues21.9%
#15Fresh surge in inequality and social divisions21.3%
#18Anger with political leaders and distrust of government18.4%
#23Weakened capacity or collapse of national social security systems16.4%
#24Healthcare becomes prohibitively expensive or ineffective14.7%
#26Failure of education and training systems to adapt to a protracted crisis12.1%
#30Spike in anti-business sentiment3.2%

With many countries moving to reopen, a few more intertwined risks come into play. 21.3% of analysts believe social inequality will be worsened, while 16.4% predict that national social safety nets could be under pressure.

Geopolitical Troubles

Further restrictions on trade and travel movements are an alarm bell for 48.7% of risk analysts—these relationships were already fraught to begin with.

RankGeopolitical Risk%
#5Tighter restrictions on the cross-border movement of people and goods48.7%
#12Exploitation of COVID-19 crisis for geopolitical advantage24.2%
#17Humanitarian crises exacerbated by reduction in foreign aid19.6%
#22Nationalization of strategic industries in certain countries17.0%
#27Failure to support and invest in multilateral organizations for global crisis response7.8%
#31Exacerbation of long-standing military conflicts2.3%

In fact, global trade could drop sharply by 13-32% while foreign direct investment (FDI) is projected to decline by an additional 30-40% in 2020.

The drop in foreign aid could also put even more stress on existing humanitarian issues, such as food insecurity in conflict-ridden parts of the world.

Technology Overload

Technology has enabled a significant number of people to cope with the impact and spread of COVID-19. An increased dependence on digital tools has enabled wide-scale remote working for business—but for many more without this option, this accelerated adoption has hindered rather than helped.

RankTechnological Risk%
#9Cyberattacks and data fraud due to sustained shift in working patterns37.8%
#11Additional unemployment from accelerated workforce automation24.8%
#25Abrupt adoption and regulation of technologies (e.g. e-voting, telemedicine, surveillance)13.8%
#28Breakdown of IT infrastructure and networks6.9%

Over a third of the surveyed risk analysts see the emergence of cyberattacks due to remote working as a rising concern. Another near 25% see the threat of rapid automation as a drawback, especially for those in occupations that do not allow for remote work.

Environmental Setbacks

Last but certainly not least, COVID-19 is also potentially halting progress on climate action. While there were initial drops in pollution and emissions due to lockdown, some estimate there could be a severe bounce-back effect on the environment as economies reboot.

RankEnvironmental Risk%
#19Higher risk of failing to invest enough in climate resilience and adaptation18.2%
#29Sharp erosion of global decarbonization efforts4.6%

As a result of the more immediate concerns, sustainability may take a back seat. But with environmental issues considered the biggest global risk this year, these delayed investments and missed climate targets could put the Earth further behind on action.

Which Risks Are of the Greatest Concern?

The risk analysts were also asked which of these risks they considered to be of the greatest concern for the world. The responses to this metric varied, with societal and geopolitical factors taking on more importance.

VC_What's-at-Risk-v5-supp

In particular, concerns around another disease outbreak weighed highly at 40.1%, and tighter cross-border movement came in at 34%.

On the bright side, many experts are also looking to this recovery trajectory as an opportunity for a “great reset” of our global systems.

This is a virus that doesn’t respect borders: it crosses borders. And as long as it is in full strength in any part of the world, it’s affecting everybody else. So it requires global cooperation to deal with it.

——Gita Gopinath, IMF Chief Economist

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The Biggest Tech Talent Hubs in the U.S. and Canada

6.5 million skilled tech workers currently work in the U.S. and Canada. Here we look at the largest tech hubs across the two countries

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The Biggest Tech Talent Hubs in the U.S. and Canada

The tech workforce just keeps growing. In fact, there are now an estimated 6.5 million tech workers between the U.S. and Canada — 5.5 million of which work in the United States.

This infographic draws from a report by CBRE to determine which tech talent markets in the U.S. and Canada are the largest. The data looks at total workforce in the sector, as well as the change in tech worker population over time in various cities.

The report also classifies which metro areas and regions can rightly be considered tech hubs in the first place, by looking at a variety of factors including cost of living, average educational attainment, and tech employment levels as a share of different industries.

The Top Tech Hubs in the U.S.

Silicon Valley, in California’s Bay Area, remains the most prominent (and expensive) U.S. tech hub, with a talent pool of nearly 380,000 tech workers.

Here’s a look at the top tech talent markets in the country in terms of total worker population:

🇺🇸 MarketTotal Tech Talent% Talent Growth (2016-2021)
SF Bay Area378,87013%
New York Metro344,5203%
Washington D.C. 259,3106%
Los Angeles235,80010%
Seattle189,57032%
Dallas/Ft. Worth187,95015%
Chicago167,5606%
Boston166,4502%
Atlanta145,0807%
Denver117,62023%
Philadelphia115,450 7%
Minneapolis100,9905%
Phoenix99,60018%
Houston98,930-2%
Detroit 93,7705%
Austin 84,68021%
Baltimore79,0008%
San Diego77,780 16%
Raleigh/Durham69,05011%
Portland67,410 28%
South Florida66,660 8%
Charlotte61,95022%
Salt Lake City55,93029%
St. Louis53,9102%
Kansas City52,5000%
Tampa 52,24013%
Columbus50,3904%

America’s large, coastal cities still contain the lion’s share of tech talent, but mid-sized tech hubs like Salt Lake City, Portland, and Denver have put up strong growth numbers in recent years. Seattle, which is home to both Amazon and Microsoft, posted an impressive 32% growth rate over the last five years.

Emerging tech hubs include areas like Raleigh-Durham. The two cities have nearly 70,000 employed tech workers and a strong talent pipeline, seeing a 28% increase in degree completions in fields like Math/Statistics and Computer Engineering year-over-year to 2020. In fact, the entire state of North Carolina is becoming an increasingly attractive business hub.

Houston was the one city on this list that had a negative growth rate, at -2%.

The Top Tech Hubs in Canada

Tech giants like Google, Meta, and Amazon are continuously and aggressively growing their presence in Canada, further solidifying the country’s status as the next big destination for tech talent. Here are the country’s four tech hubs with a total worker population of more than 50,000:

🇨🇦 MarketTotal Tech Talent% Talent Growth (2016-2021)
Toronto289,70044%
Montreal148,90027%
Vancouver115,40063%
Ottawa81,20022%

Toronto saw the most absolute growth tech positions in 2021, adding 88,900 jobs. The tech sector in Canada’s largest city has seen a lot of momentum in recent years, and is now ranked by CBRE as North America’s #3 tech hub, after the SF Bay Area and New York City.

Vancouver’s tech talent population increased the most from its original figure, climbing 63%. Seattle-based companies like Microsoft and Amazon have established sizable offices in the city, adding to the already thriving tech scene. Furthermore, Google is set to build a submarine high-speed fiber optic cable connecting Canada to Asia, with a terminus in Vancouver.

Not to be left behind, Ottawa has also taken giant strides to increase their tech talent and stamp their presence. The country’s capital even has the highest concentration of tech employment in its workforce, thanks in part to the success of Shopify.

Map showing tech employment concentration in the U.S. and Canada

The small, but well-known tech hub of Waterloo also had a very high concentration on tech employment (9.6%). The region has seen its tech workforce grow by 8% over the past five years.

Six out of the top 10 cities by tech workforce concentration are located in Canada.

Evolution of Tech Hubs

The post-COVID era has seen a shifting definition of what a tech hub means. It’s clear that remote work is here to stay, and as workers migrate to chase affordability and comfort, traditional tech hubs are seeing some decline — or at least slower growth — in their population of tech workers.

While it isn’t evident that there is a mass exodus of tech talent from traditional coastal hubs, the rise in high-paying tech jobs in smaller markets across the country could point to a trend and is positive for the industry.

While more workers with great talent, resources, and education continue to opt for cost-friendly places to reside and work remotely, will newer markets like Charlotte, Tennessee, and Calgary see a rise of tech companies, or will large corporations and startups alike continue to opt for the larger cities on the coast?

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Animation: Visualizing U.S. Interest Rates Since 2020

U.S. interest rates have risen sharply after sitting near historic lows. This animation charts their trajectory since 2020.

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Visualizing Interest Rates Since 2020

In March 2020, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut already depressed interest rates to historic lows amid an unraveling COVID-19 pandemic.

Fast-forward to 2022, and the central bank is grappling with a very different economic situation⁠ that includes high inflation, low unemployment, and increasing wage growth. Given these conditions, it raised interest rates to 2.25% up from 0% in just five months.

The above visualization from Jan Varsava shows U.S. interest rates over the last two years along with its impact on Treasury yields, often considered a key indicator for the economy.

Timeline of Interest Rates

Below, we show how U.S. interest rates have changed over the course of the pandemic:

DateFederal Funds Rate (Range)Rate Change (bps)
July 27, 20222.25% to 2.50%+75
June 16, 20221.50% to 1.75%+75
May 5, 20220.75% to 1.00%+50
March 17, 20220.25% to 0.50%+25
March 16, 20200.00% to 0.25%-100
March 3, 20201.00% to 1.25%-150

In early 2020, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates from 1% to 0% in emergency meetings. The U.S. economy then jumped back from its shortest recession ever recorded, partially supported by massive policy stimulus.

But by 2022, as the inflation rate hit 40-year highs, the central bank had to make its first rate increase in over two years. During the following Federal Reserve meetings, interest rates were then hiked 50 basis points, and then 75 basis points two times shortly after.

Despite these efforts to rein in inflation, price pressures remain high. The war in Ukraine, supply disruptions, and rising demand all contribute to higher prices, along with increasing public-debt loads. In fact, a Federal Reserve estimate suggests that inflation was 2.5% higher due to the $1.9 trillion stimulus, an effect of “fiscal inflation.”

Impact on the Treasury Yield Curve

The sharp rise in interest rates has sent shockwaves through markets. The S&P 500 Index has steadily declined 19% year-to-date, and the NASDAQ Composite Index has fallen over 27%.

Bond markets are also showing signs of uncertainty, with the 10-year minus 2-year Treasury yield curve acting as a prime example. This yield curve subtracts the return on short-term government bonds from long-term government bonds.

When long-term bond yields are lower than short-term yields—in other words, the yield curve inverts—it indicates that markets predict slower future growth. In recent history, the yield curve inverting has often signaled a recession. The table below shows periods of yield curve inversions for one month or more since 1978.

Yield Curve Inversion DateNumber of MonthsMaximum Difference (10 yr - 2 yr bps)
Aug 197821 -241
Sep 198013 -170
Jan 19824 -71
Jun 19821 -34
Dec 19886 -45
Aug 19892 -18
Jun 19981 -7
Feb 200010 -51
Feb 20061 -16
Jun 20061 -7
Aug 20067-19
Jul 20222*-48

*Data as of September 9, 2022
Source: Federal Reserve

For example, the yield curve inverted in February 2000 to a bottom of -51 basis points difference between the 10-year Treasury yield and the 2-year Treasury yield. In March 2001, the U.S. economy went into recession as the Dotcom Bubble burst.

More recently, the yield curve has inverted to its steepest level in two decades.

This trend is extending to other countries as well. Both New Zealand and the UK’s yield curves inverted in August. In Australia, the yield spread between 3-year and 10-year bond futures—its primary measure—was at its narrowest in a decade.

What’s On the Horizon?

Sustained Treasury yield inversions have sometimes occurred after tightening monetary policy.

In both 1980 and 2000, the Federal Reserve increased interest rates to fight inflation. For instance, when interest rates jumped to 20% in 1981 under Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, the U.S. Treasury yield inverted over 150 basis points.

This suggests that monetary policy can have a large impact on the direction of the yield curve. That’s because short-term interest rates rise when the central bank raises interest rates to combat inflation.

On the flip side, long-term bonds like the 10-year Treasury yield can be affected by growth prospects and market sentiment. If growth expectations are low and market uncertainty is high, it may cause yields to fall. Taken together, whether or not the economy could be headed for a recession remains unclear.

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