Stevenson's end-of year commentary on the economy

January 3, 2022

Ford School economics professor Betsey Stevenson saw resilience in the U.S. economy at the end of 2021, despite lingering problems for some segments of the population like caregivers. 

Speaking with Yahoo! Finance, she said the economy had performed surprisingly well. “If you talked to people when this pandemic first started, they were worried that employers would be looking to automate and to replace workers with technology because technology doesn't get COVID,” she said. “And in fact, what we've seen is just record job openings. If we filled every single job opening that's out there right now, we'd have employment that was not just well above where we were pre-pandemic, but well above what anyone predicted pre-pandemic.”

The government has had a hard time tracking job growth because of the highly volatile economic environment. Stevenson told the Financial Times, "The seasonal patterns are not some kind of law, they are just patterns. COVID has done more to disrupt our patterns than anything I could have imagined."  

Yet for the people, especially women, who left the workforce to care for children or older family members, it may be especially hard for them to return. "People who are providing this care at home… are at an increased risk of not being able to take on another job or do paid labor,” she told Yahoo! Money. She called the dilemma a “chicken and the egg problem,” noting that even if caregivers may want to go back to work, they may not be able to because there are not enough childcare workers and nursing home employees to take on the workload left behind.

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