Local Economist Predicts Slight Recovery This Year
The central Ohio economy will recover slightly with a 2.6% gain of almost 27,000 jobs in 2021, but should leave year-end employment well below its February 2020 level.
That’s the expectation from Regionomics founder Bill Lafayette, who delivered his Blue Chip Economic Forecast at Wednesday’s Columbus Metropolitan Club forum. Lafayette cautioned that much of the recovery remains tied to the COVID-19 pandemic:
“Because we don’t know how bad the post-holiday surge in infections is going to be, how that’s going to affect different industries, how fast vaccinations will occur, how fast those vaccinations will bring down the infection rate, how soon people will feel comfortable getting back to normal – and even what normal will look like.”
Lafayette says the region lost 162,000 jobs just in March and April of last year. Strong gains in May offset about half of that loss with estimates showing an employment decline of 5.9 percent in 2020. The Leisure and Hospitality sector bore the brunt of the employment collapse:
“This includes arts, entertainment, recreation, hotels and restaurants. In the shutdown of March and April this sector lost half of its total employment. 53,000 jobs vaporized in two months. It’s made back half of that loss in the following months, so we’re now down about one quarter since last February.”
Lafayette predicts a 4.6 percent gain. But even if that happens, the sector will be down by about 15 percent from its February 2020 peak. The full CMC forum airs on WCBE Saturday at 10 a.m., and will be available as a podcast at wcbe.org.