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Coachella Valley businesses take another hit with spectators not allowed at American Express golf tournament

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UPDATE: In our coverage of this story during News Channel 3 at 6:00 Tuesday night, we mentioned the unemployment rate in the Coachella Valley is 25%.

That estimate comes from Joe Wallace, the CEO/Chief Innovation Officer for the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership.

Wallace provided News Channel 3 with background on how the estimated rate was derived.

"This is an estimate based on the U6 protocol for measurement. It is important to note that it is the U6 as opposed to the U3 protocol since the U6 includes discouraged workers who have not applied for work recently and those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.  The U3 is what is usually on the news and it excludes those people.  Both miss the one-person entrepreneurs in the service business and our valley has many of those," said Wallace.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the measures:

  • U-1, persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
  • U-2, job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
  • U-3, total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (this is the definition used for the official unemployment rate);
  • U-4, total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers;
  • U-5, total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other marginally attached workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers; and
  • U-6, total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.

INITIAL REPORT:

At Desert Casual on Jefferson Street in La Quinta, golf and golfers are among their target market, so owner Pat Wonser is not happy with Tuesday's news.

"It just seems like it's another blow. This whole year has been a downer ever since last springs we went into lockdown," said Wonser. )

Wonder has been running his retail shop with his wife for 13 years and they've seen lots of ups and downs.

But nothing like what we've seen since March.

Losing foot traffic from the American Express tournament is another challenge he hopes he can overcome.

"It's been a struggle this year. We're making it through but it's been hard," said Wonser.

Wonser says already this year is business is off by about 40 percent and without spectators in January, he estimates his loss for that month alone at about 50 percent.

At Mario's Italian Cafe in La Quinta, the staff is also concerned about the impact.

"I think it's sad. The businesses are just shot right now," said server Kayla Yonekura.

The U.S. Travel Association estimates that in days prior to Covid-19, the average tourist during a visit would spend about $200 a day.

For the tournament, that adds up to thousands of people a day over four days, generating what would have been millions of dollars for businesses.

The impact won't be felt only in La Quinta but across the valley.

"Some 60,000 jobs are tied to the tourism industry directly," said Katie Stice, President of the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce.

Stice and others say business owners in every valley city are hurt with cancellations at major events.

They also point to significant losses from cancelled music festivals in Indio earlier this year.

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Tom Tucker

Tom Tucker is a veteran broadcast journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. Learn more about Tom here.

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