When the curtain closed on the great celestial cinema that was Monday’s solar eclipse — and the sun and moon went back to their usual roles — there wasn’t much left for humans to do but rub our eyes, wonder if we might go blind and resume our usual lives.
The moon’s shadow may have raced across the contiguous United States for the first time since 1918, luring millions of Americans outside. But it ended with many of them racing back to work.
The Great American Eclipse didn’t come without cost. In fact, the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas pegs the tally for employers at around $694 million. That’s how much productivity, the company claims, was lost just so employees could step outside for about 20 minutes and soak up the sky for two-and-a-half minutes before getting back to work.
Maya Kosoff at Vanity Fair breaks it down thusly:
“There are about 87 million U.S. workers, making an average hourly wage of $23.86. If they all took about 20 minutes to scout out a spot to see the eclipse and then watch the whole thing unfold, it would cost an employer $7.95 per person, or, when multiplied by 87 million, about $694 million in lost productivity.”
Sure, there were some kickbacks to offset those losses. Let’s not forget about the must-have accessories for safely enjoying totality: eclipse glasses. They went up for sale early at retailers like Amazon and Walmart. And, as the pivotal moment of totality approached, prices spiraled upward. There’s also the fact that hotels in prime viewing areas were booked solid months in advance, with many room rates more than doubling. And, of course, airlines got in on the action, raising fares to cities along the path of totality.
Did American business break even? Does it even matter?
This bottom line runs so much deeper than productivity lost or one-time profiteering. When was the last time millions of Americans joined together in agreement on anything?
This was special. The Great American Eclipse was a boon for a battered American heart.
"Experiencing an eclipse changes the way we feel about space and how we are connected," iconic Science Guy Bill Nye explained. “I hope this moment reminds us all that we share a common origin among the stars, and that we are all citizens of the same planet."
Indeed, Americans of every faith and every political stripe — even those who may still believe the moon is made of cheese — all gathered under the same sheltering sky and dreamed a common dream.