As millions of Carolinians flee from their homes while Hurricane Florence barrels closer to the region’s coast, some in the Trump administration are beginning to worry about the economic ramifications the life-threatening storm could have for the country.
“Overall, it’s not going to move the national economy,” Wilbur Ross, the U.S. secretary of commerce, said on Thursday while touring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We have an $18 trillion economy, so one percent of $18 trillion would be $180 billion. That’s a pretty big number.”
But, Ross said it could have “a lot of implications” for some vulnerable sectors of the economy, including shipping and agriculture.
He said the massive Category 2 hurricane, whose rains already began lashing North Carolina Thursday afternoon, could hinder the shipping industry, affecting imports and exports because vessels will likely remain on the water longer, thus raising transportation costs.
Hundreds of ships are already marooned offshore, delaying the time it takes getting goods to ports and businesses.
“Now, since we import more than we export, probably that’ll be a little bit of a help to the economy,” Ross said. “But, it will slow down shipping.”
Agriculture will also be hit particularly hard, Ross said, since people will be unable to conduct business. Hog and pig farmers in North Carolina were scrambling to figure out what to do with their livestock earlier this week. The state produces about one-eighth of the country’s hog and pigs.