How COVID-19 Has Affected the Erie Economy
Erie Leading Index reveals impact of pandemic so far
Slowly but surely, Erie was on its way up, both in terms of employment and economic growth. Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has rerouted that trajectory. What do the numbers look like and what lies ahead? The latest Erie Leading Index (ELI), a quarterly report produced by the Economic Research Institute of Erie (ERIE) within the Penn State Behrend Black School of Business, provides a glimpse.
What's happened so far?
While January and February showed mild progress in terms of economic indicators, March is when the world as we knew it turned upside down and the place we need to begin to look. There aren't many positives to be gleaned here — that is unless you are in the Mining, Logging, and Construction or Education and Health Services sector, which both experienced employment gains.
The Leisure and Hospitality, Local Government, Professional and Business Services, and Manufacturing sectors all suffered major employment losses as a result of newly imposed government regulations and shutdowns. Erie lost 200 hotel, bar, and restaurant workers alone in the second half of March.
What's to come
Essentially, no sector of the local economy will escape this pandemic completely unscathed. But there are some service industries that could remain relatively stable or even see modest growth.
The Education and Health Services sector employs more Erieites than any other (29,700 workers) and will continue to see some jobs in high demand (such as hospital workers), although the 2020-21 academic year is in flux.
The Information sector — which includes publishing, motion picture and sound recording, broadcasting, data processing, and information services — was virtually unshaken by the initial wave of coronavirus shutdowns, probably owing to its intrinsically remote nature and broad reach.
Blue collar jobs like logging, mining, and construction normally receive a boost come the summer — while that may be tempered by COVID-19, Gov. Wolf's reopening of construction projects this month provides some hope.
The Leisure and Hospitality sector has been the hardest hit, as profit margins are often small in normal times, much less when there are no people to sit at tables, stand at bars, and mingle with social distancing measures in play. It will require the concerted effort of local economic development organizations to help our bars and restaurants weather this storm.
Traders, retailers, and transportation companies will have to be on the alert as global supply chains are affected by the pandemic. Government and professional disciplines may have to continue scale down and/or adjust to changing rules and regulations.
Although this ELI did not have the peachiest of outlooks, it's likely the next one will be even more sobering. Our handling of society's reboot — balancing economic concerns with that of public health — will be crucial in our recovery.
Matt Swanseger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org