An expert believes the economy will look different as we rebound from the pandemic-related recession, and he said some post-pandemic economic trends are already beginning to emerge.
“We’re so much more comfortable with things like remote work. Maybe we’re going to the office a little bit during the week and we’re staying home a little bit during the week with remote work,” said Dr. Tom Sadler during an interview with Tri States Public Radio. “We’ve seen that a lot with remote learning. A lot of kids are either 100% online learning from home or some kind of hybrid model.”
Sadler, a professor of economics at Western Illinois University, said remote work could help businesses save money on expenses such as office space – as long as worker productivity remains the same or is higher.
He also said workers in large urban areas could save on commuting expenses.
But Sadler added the pandemic has harmed some businesses and workers. He said America has a largely service-oriented economy, a transformation that’s been underway for decades.
“The projections are that a lot of small businesses may not make it throughout the course of the pandemic and many have already closed throughout the country,” Sadler said.
He said restaurants, coffeehouses, and movie theaters are examples of small, service-oriented businesses that have been hit especially hard as consumers have adapted to the pandemic.
“Instead of going to movies, we’re watching stuff on Netflix. And instead of going to restaurants, we’re ordering carryout.”
Sadler said the nation’s economy was basically shut down to fight the pandemic – what he called a “deliberate recession.” He said that makes it different than past economic downturns such as the Great Depression and other recessions.
“On one hand, this was a new situation. But on the other hand, the economy right now is recovering slowly. It looks like we’re going to be on our way in 2021 and probably into 2022,” he said.
He added the economy always rebounds after a recession – it’s just a matter of how quickly it does so.
Sadler also said it is difficult to compare the current situation to what happened with the economy due to the flu pandemic of 100 years ago. He said the U.S. produced a lot more stuff as a percentage of output back then. And he said not much was written at the time about the flu pandemic’s impact on the economy.
Sadler is author of Pandemic Economics, which is scheduled for release this month. The textbook will complement a newly created class, also called Pandemic Economics, that he is teaching this semester.
“I started thinking in April that it would be interesting to offer a class on this – to think about the pandemic and how it would unfold from an economics perspective,” Sadler said.
He said he looked around and found only one similar class planned at another university, and it was geared more toward the business perspective.
Sadler is also the author of Energy Economics: Science, Policy and Economics Applications, and he is co-editor of Local Food Networks and Activism in the Heartland.
Sadler teaches upper level courses on energy economics, environmental economics, microeconomics, and global economics.
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