Nearly three years after COVID-19 struck the United States, much of the damage done by it to the nation’s economy is only now being felt and likely will linger for years, according to a local economist.
Traditional brick-and-mortar retail, working at home instead of the office and movie theaters have all been permanently reshaped by the pandemic that has taken more than 1.1 million U.S. lives, said Jay Prag, professor of economics at the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.
“I love movies, and I’ve been going to movie theaters all of my life, but right now I don’t see an end game for them,” said Prag, the keynote speaker at the Economic Outlook conference hosted by IE Business Daily at Threshold Aviation at the Chino Airport. “With streaming becoming more popular, I don’t know how [the theater industry] will respond.
“I’m not saying they will go away entirely, but they’re not going to be nearly as popular as they once were.”
Consumers also discovered shopping – and working – from home during the pandemic, Prag noted.
“A lot of employers want their people to come back to the office, for whatever reason.” Prag told the gathering. “Maybe they want to get back the camaraderie you have when people are working together. I’m sure that will be worked out.”
Contrary to what some people believe, the pandemic is not responsible for those trends.
“All of those things started before COVID-19,” Prag said. “The pandemic just sped them up.”
Prag also repeated the prediction he made to IE Business Daily last week, that the U.S. economy will struggle this year and that the Federal Reserve must account for the estimated $2 trillion in bailout money it pumped into the economy in order to keep it afloat during the worst of the pandemic.
“The Fed needs to suck up all of that cheap money,” said Prag, who admitted he had no idea how that might be done. “It created a bubble that didn’t need to be created.”
Mike Stull, Director for the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship, Mark DiLullo, CEO of Threshold Aviation Group, Atman Kadakia, Managing Director of Greens Development and Jeff Burum, CEO of National CORE and Diversified Pacific, closed out the event discussing the impact the pandemic has had locally and what is needed to get through the ‘recession-like’ after effects.