There's no quick fix for the U.S. economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Cara Walton with consulting firm Harbour Results Inc.
The impacts of early-year shutdowns and of slowed economic activity continue to be felt, Walton said during Plastics News' 2020 Caps & Closures conference. Consumer sentiment remains down, in spite of $2.4 trillion in government stimulus spending and a stable housing market, she added.
And even with housing stable, Walton said that "there's concern" about office construction and commercial real estate.
In consumer spending, companies like Netflix and Amazon have seen better results since the pandemic began, while results for firms such as Uber, Marriott and Delta Airlines are down.
"It's a cyclical economy," said Walton, engagement manager with Southfield, Mich.-based Harbour Results. "The consumer will continue to spend money, but in different ways."
As the year has gone on, a V-shaped recovery has become less likely because of continued unemployment and the lack of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Walton. Retail sales also are likely to drop in the third or fourth quarter.
"We will recover, but there's a need to lift government restrictions and sustain spending," she said, adding that it will be harder for manufacturers to get loans from struggling banks.
"Some areas of manufacturing will take years to return to pre-COVID levels," Walton added. "For some, finding new sales will be challenging."
In June, Harbour Results CEO Laurie Harbour said that some automotive-focused injection molders "won't make it through" the pandemic. Walton advised plastics processors to focus on liquidity management and to take a close look at cost reduction, their supply base and the finances of both their suppliers and customers.
"Some companies might need a long-term strategic reset and a new cost structure mindset," she said.