Economic forecast 2021: Albert Loh, economist at the University of North Florida, optimistic | Jax Daily Record | Jacksonville Daily Record


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When economists made their forecast for 2020 12 months ago, no one could have seen what was to come.

The first cases of COVID-19 were detected in December 2019 in China and it will be months before people realize the impact it would have on the global economy.

Jacksonville felt the impact much like the rest of the United States, with businesses shutting down in the spring and thousands of local residents losing their jobs, at least temporarily.

Economist Albert Loh of the University of North Florida

The good news as economists make their forecast for 2021 is that conditions can only improve.

“We have reason to be optimistic about a robust recovery in the local economy in 2021,” said Albert Loh, economist at the University of North Florida.

“As more COVID treatments and vaccines become widely available at the start of the year, many economic activities, including those in sectors most affected such as accommodation, hospitality, entertainment and air travel, can return more fully, ”he said.

The most recent data available shows Northeast Florida has already recovered strongly from the big spring job losses, but the economy still has a long way to go to return to its pre-pandemic level.

The unemployment rate in metro Jacksonville was 5% in October, well below its April peak of 11.2%. This is still much higher than the record rate of 2.6% in December 2019.

Jacksonville-area businesses reported 29,600 fewer jobs on their payrolls in October than they did 12 months earlier, a drop of 4%.

More recent statewide trend data in Florida shows continuous improvement. The number of new unemployment insurance claims has been steadily declining since July and fell to 20,787 in the week ended November 28, the lowest level since March.

New claims averaged around 5,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2020 before the start of business closures linked to the pandemic.

Weekly claims in Florida peaked at 506,670 during the week ended April 18.

Even if a vaccine successfully ends the pandemic in 2021, the economy will continue to feel long-term effects, Loh said.

“Many businesses can continue to rely heavily on online operations for fear that COVID will return as a seasonal threat and to serve customers who have become accustomed to such a mode of transaction during the height of the pandemic,” he said. -he declares.

“In the meantime, the damage to state revenues in 2020 will spill over into local utility budgets, including education, transportation and more next year.”

At least 2021 will be an improvement.

“We may continue to feel the impact of the pandemic over the next two years, but all indications are that next year will be much better than 2020,” Loh said.

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