Ask an American for a view on the economic impact of the country’s Independence Day celebrations, and there is a good chance they will talk fireworks.
Spectacular displays are as integral to the Fourth of July as turkey is to Thanksgiving, and huge sums are spent on what is, in truth, a brief display of coloured lights in the sky.
This was put at $800 million in 2016, and has almost certainly risen since. But while this is good news for the retailers who supply patriotic Americans with their bangs and flashes, it is perhaps better news for China’s firework industry, which now satisfies the majority of US demand.
Beer, wine and burgers
Similarly, in the run-up to every Independence Day, $5.4 million of American flags are imported, again mostly from China.
Understandably, many Americans prefer to have Independence Day fall close to the weekend, holding out the promise of at least three days off. Wall Street closes down half-way through 3 July and stays shut throughout 4 July, meaning the Dow Jones Index and Standard & Poor’s 500 fell silent at 1pm on Tuesday and will re-open as usual on 5 July.
While 4 July this year does not extend into a long weekend, it does provide a welcome mid-week break.
Beer and wine, for a start. Using 2017 figures, the website WalletHub puts a $1.5 billion price tag on the raising of a glass of good cheer to celebrate the nation’s birthday. But this impressive figure is dwarfed by the $6.9 billion spent on Fourth of July food, including $804 million on beef, $218 million on pork, $371 million on chicken and $85 million on shrimp.
Uncertain economic effect
The airline industry will be kept busy, with 3.8 million people travelling by plane to their 4 July destinations. The beach is popular, with 28% giving it as their favourite place to spend Independence Day.
A British Government estimate six years ago into the bank-holiday effect said this could be a boost to the economy of £1.1 billion or a loss of £3.6 billion – a wide margin of error.
Some years ago, in a complicated scheme to raise more revenue to help care for elderly people, France said it would abolish the Whit Monday bank holiday and levy a special tax on the additional output that would, it said, result on that day. The government backed off after a furious public reaction.
Not as furious, one suspects, as that to be expected of Americans at any attempt to abolish the Fourth of July. That really would cause fireworks.