The result, economists say, is likely to be dramatic losses in local retail and dining options, with millions of jobs disappearing as the biggest and wealthiest companies — especially those that do much of their business online — extend their gains. Telework, online education and streaming video have grown sharply, while movie theaters, schools and traditional workplaces close their doors. Some will never reopen in a world where the shift from real to virtual suddenly has gone into overdrive.
While some economists caution that these shifts may be temporary, others see long-term changes taking hold.
“People will change their habits, and some of these habits will stick,” said Susan Athey, an economics of technology professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “There’s a lot of things where people are just slowly shifting, and this will accelerate that.”