The NSCA’s monthly webinar painted an optimistic picture of what AV professionals can expect in the coming months and into 2022.
The NSCA held its monthly webinar on April 27, inviting chief economist Dr. Chris Kuehl to speak about the economic recovery AV professionals can expect now that COVID-19 vaccine rollouts are fully underway. Entitled “Dr. Kuehl’s Economic & Integration Market Outlook,” the hour-long session painted an optimistic picture of what’s to come over the next few months, as well as into 2022 and beyond.
Dr. Kuehl pointed to several promising signs that a “rapid rebound” has already begun. For one, US recovery is exceeding initial expectations, something demonstrated in the chart below. As depicted, the economy is expected to return to January 2020 levels of health by the end of this month—and according to the current forecast, that growth is unlikely to stop there.
Part of what’s driving this speedy recovery is that there’s more money flooding into the economy, and paired with the desire to return to business as usual, it’s increasing the demand for experiences and capital goods.
Dr. Kuehl also revealed that people are no longer referring to COVID-19 as the number-one problem they’re facing. That the virus has been pushed further back on their list of concerns bodes well for businesses and suggests we’re moving forward from the challenges of the past year.
“As recently as December of last year, if you did a poll asking what people were most concerned about–whether they were investors or the finance community or the business community or consumers–COVID-19 was at the top of the list and buried everything else. Nothing else was even making it into the Pantheon. You do that survey today, and COVID-19 is like number five or six, or even lower.”
Overall, it appears the US economy will continue to rebound in the coming months, and beyond that as well. As shown in the chart below, economists forecast a slight dip in 2022, but it’s unlikely to be damaging or long-lasting. As Dr. Kuehl pointed out during the NSCA webinar, this recovery will prove far steadier than what the US experienced following the 2008 recession.
What to Expect From a Return to ‘Normal’
As the country begins to reopen, Dr. Kuehl outlined some of the major things people can expect from a “return to normal.” His points reflected that, while people are eager to get back out there, some of the changes brought about by the pandemic will stick.
- More remote and hybrid work options. As companies inch back toward the way things were, Dr. Kuehl predicts more flexible workspaces will become a necessity. Although some of the enthusiasm surrounding remote work has dimmed, there are many employees who would like to maintain the flexibility to work remotely. Because of this, businesses are expected to embrace hybrid work models moving forward.
- A rebound in entertainment and live events. Due to COVID-19 restrictions nationwide, the entertainment and live events industries have taken a significant hit. Forced closures and limited venue capacities saw venues struggling to stay afloat, but once the majority of the population is vaccinated, Dr. Kuehl believes entertainment will be in high demand.
- Increased ecommerce. Although brick-and-mortar stores have reopened and will be capable of operating at full capacity soon enough, it’s likely online shopping will continue to appeal to people post-pandemic. Not only is ecommerce often more convenient than in-person shopping, but it will continue to appeal to consumers who remain cautious about COVID-19.
- A return to traditional learning—with a twist. Workplaces may begin to mesh remote work with the traditional office setting, but according to Dr. Kuehl, schools are less likely to follow suit. As things return to some semblance of normal, he believes there will be a full shift back to traditional learning—but that doesn’t mean everything students and teachers have learned over the past year will go to waste. Dr. Kuehl predicts that educational institutions will begin introducing more technology to their curricula, especially after seeing how it can enhance learning.
Inflation Is The Biggest Concern
Although most of Dr. Kuehl’s observations veered toward optimism, there was one concern he pointed to throughout the NSCA’s webinar: inflation. With the government printing so much money and consumer demand on the rise, it seems inevitable prices will begin to rise. This has already started to happen on a smaller scale, and Dr. Kuehl suggested it could become more noticeable later on.
Beyond the price of commodities increasing, Dr. Kuehl warned of the possibility that the Feds will raise rates. This would be greater cause for concern, but fortunately, there’s no guarantee it will come to that. Although the NSCA’s chief economist recommended keeping an eye on the situation, he continued to highlight the projections for growth heading into 2022. Overall, his webinar hinted that, while the U.S. isn’t out of the woods just yet, its economy is headed to a much better place than this time last year.
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