Interface Keynote: Economist Expresses Optimism Amid Economic and Labor Concerns

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Roger Tutterow, veteran economist and professor at Kennesaw State University, delivers the keynote address at InterFace Seniors Housing Southeast in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — After a quarter characterized by rising costs of living and rising inflation, “recession” is the word on everyone’s lips. But Roger Tutterow, an economics professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, says “it’s not a foregone conclusion that we’re in a recession today or that we’ll get there in the next few months.”

The official definition of a recession is not two consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth. “Most of the time it works that way,” Tutterow said, “but the technical definition of a recession is a period of declining activity in production, trade, employment and income.”

Tutterow noted that looking at these four components of economic activity and comparing them to today indicate a slowing economy and a high risk of recession, but he doesn’t think the economy is necessarily contracting. It places the risk of a recession in the next 12 months as about a one in three chance.

The prediction came during a keynote address Tutterow gave at the ninth annual InterFace Seniors Housing Southeast, a networking and informational conference organized by France Media’s InterFace conference group and Housing company for the elderly. The event took place on Wednesday August 17 at the Westin Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta and attracted 324 attendees.

While GDP contracted at an annual rate of 1.6% in the first quarter of this year, Tutterow points out that the trade sector alone contracted by 3.3%, skewing the figures. The trade sector encompasses domestic, imported and exported trade in wholesale and retail commodities. “Take out the trade and the economy actually grew in the first quarter,” Tutterow explained. “Consumption was up, investment was up.”

GDP fell another 0.9% in the second quarter, “but we have to remember that GDP doesn’t measure what we sell, it measures what we produce. And sometimes there is a difference between those two,” he said. He attributes the drop in GDP to supply-side constraints, saying business inventories fell enough to shave 2% off GDP growth in the last quarter.

Tutterow also spoke of the great resignation of workers who have quit over the past two years. In July 2022, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the rate of Americans quitting their jobs had reached highs not seen since December 2000, but Tutterow notes that an important aspect of this is the aging of the generation baby boomers, and therefore older workers. opting for retirement – ​​and perhaps moving into senior housing.

“More seniors are going to work in jobs they can do remotely or hybridly, in which case the kinds of factors that determine where they want to move are quality of life, access to medical care, etc. support the senior housing industry,” he explained.

What concerns Tutterow most is the sentiment of US households toward the economy. The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index fell to 50 in June, marking the lowest level since 1952. The sentiment index rebounded to 51.5 in July and 58.2 in August , but these readings are still at the low end of the scale. .

Tutterow attributes this weak consumer sentiment to high energy costs throughout the second quarter. “We have observed this data for 40 years. Every time the price of oil goes up and the price of gas at the pump goes up, you see consumer confidence go down.

—Channing Hamilton

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