The MIT Enterprise Forum of Atlanta wrapped up its two-part series, Covid-19: Saving Livelihoods, on May 19th with a distinguished panel of economists and business leaders discussing the economic impact being felt throughout Atlanta and nationwide. The panelists included:
- Tom Cunningham, Senior Vice President & Chief Economist, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
- Dennis Lockhart, Former President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
- Kartik B. Athreya, Executive Vice President and Director of Research, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
- Gayathri Srinivasan, Executive Director, Emory Office of Corporate Relations
The discussion which was moderated by Melanie Brandt, President and CEO of the Atlanta Chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG), centered around striking the delicate balance of taking necessary measures to save lives, while also considering the real resulting economic impact those measures will have on the livelihoods of those in the Atlanta community and the American people as a whole.
While all the panelists acknowledged the unprecedented nature of the crisis, they did point out that the economy was better positioned to absorb this kind of shock due to the sustained economic growth seen over the last decade. According to Tom Cunningham, Atlanta went into this pandemic with a 70,000 job surplus and a robust economy; which mirrored most areas of the country.
When asked about public policy, the panelists agreed by in large, that although not perfect, policymakers acted quickly and decisively by any meaningful measures, and that the mindset of policymakers is to continue to focus on what they can do today.
The main takeaway from the discussion was that there is still too much uncertainty to properly forecast what recovery will look like. Continuing to monitor national unemployment levels will be a key driver in determining the true economic impact and the road to recovery. Gayathri Srinivasan highlighted that the key difference between the 2008 economic crisis and the current one is biology. Until we have a biological solution in the form of therapeutic response and vaccinations, we won’t be able to determine an economic one – a sentiment shared by all the panelists.