PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh could rebound from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic faster than other places, according to the chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group.
“Pittsburgh is a little less exposed to some of the industries that are going to lead this downturn,” Gus Faucher told Channel 11 News. “For example, it's not much of a travel center. It has a lot of healthcare and that should benefit, so I think that we still we see a significant downturn in the Pittsburgh area, but it's likely to be not quite as bad as what we see in the rest of the country.”
In March, auto sales were down 40%, consumer spending was down 7% and home buying was down 20%. Faucher said he expects the April numbers to be much worse.
“We've seen initial unemployment claims of about 30 million layoffs over the past 6 weeks, so this is going to be much more significant, a much steeper recession than what we saw in 2008 and 2009,” he said.
Channel 11 asked Faucher if the economy will slide enough to be considered a depression.
“I mean this looks like a severe recession,” he said. “The question is, is it going to be bad enough to qualify as a depression? It shouldn't be as bad as the Great Depression we saw in the 1920's and the 1930's, but this is, for the most part, this will be, by far, the most significant economic downturn during our lifetime.”
Faucher said we should be prepared for a rough three to four months with unemployment jumping to more than 15%. With help from the federal government, like stimulus checks and small business loans, recovery could start.
“I'm hopeful that we will see a stronger economy over the next six-to-nine months or so and pretty solid economic growth. The unemployment rate is going to come down pretty quickly and I do think that over the longer run, the United States’ economy will adjust to this and that we will see an improvement in the economy, but it is going to take some time to get there,” he said.
Faucher said it all depends on public health. People need to feel safe to go to work, to go to a restaurant or go shopping. He believes that’s the key to a strong economy.
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