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'I’m more worried about the long-run trajectory' | Economist says impacts of coronavirus will be serious

Dr. Tom Smith of Emory’s Goizueta School of Business says government assistance programs will help, for now.

ATLANTA — As local and global economies quickly shut down due to the unchecked coronavirus, economists are expecting that the impacts on everyone will be serious and long-lasting, especially if the pandemic lasts several months or longer.

“We’re seeing the economy go through some serious disruptions,” said Economist Tom Smith of Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business.  “And I think there’s a lot of worry from employees about what’s going to happen. ‘Am I going to get a paycheck next week or next month’.”

Smith says America and the rest of the world has never seen anything like this—the widespread and rapid shut down of the economy—workers in every sector of the economy facing imminent, zero income, with no end in sight.

Smith says if the worst of the outbreak lasts maybe another month or two, it will be tough on everyone; but what can help, he says, includes government programs aimed at protecting the unemployed from mortgage foreclosures and car repossessions.

“If we are able to, let’s say, overcome the community spread, and contain this virus in eight weeks or ten weeks, then the summer might look reasonable…. Can we shutter ourselves in, for a week, or two weeks, and not be too much worse for wear? Probably. Two months? Six months? Now you’re talking about a real strain on not just the economy, but also community and the way that we interact," said Smith. 

He compares the potential impacts of the coronavirus to the major disruptions caused to cities and states from natural disasters such as hurricanes, disruptions that would be unprecedented and global--especially if the pandemic is prolonged--to an unknowable degree. Just like the unknowns of the virus, itself.

“In the long-run, will people have to try to find a different job, or try to find different ways of making money? I mean, that’s where this prolonged impact is going to have such a different kind of effect. So I’m more worried about the long-run trajectory of this economic recession.”

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