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An economic 'boom' predicted for LI once COVID subsides, NY Fed official says

Jason Bram, a regional economist at the Federal

Jason Bram, a regional economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, spoke Tuesday to a virtual meeting of the Long Island Association business group. Credit: James T. Madore

Long Island’s recovery from the coronavirus-induced recession will be strong, "a real boom," once the pandemic subsides, an economist for New York’s top bank said Tuesday.

"Over the next year, when you do get a recovery, it’ll be a strong recovery," said Jason Bram, a regional economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. "Things will come back with a vengeance because people haven’t traveled for much of the past nine months, they haven’t gone to movies or plays … There will be a real boom," he said.

Bram, who studies the economy of Long Island and the metropolitan area, predicted the recovery won't start until spring 2021, at the earliest, because of the rise in virus cases.

"I’m not optimistic about the next two or three months," he told a virtual meeting of the Long Island Association’s financial services and tax policy committee. "A lot of experts have said in the winter, it [number of coronavirus cases] is going to get worse."

However, to date Nassau and Suffolk counties are faring better than New York City.

Bram said the Island has regained a greater percentage of the jobs lost to the pandemic than the city and state have, though all three lag the national rate. The number of people employed remains below the pre-pandemic level recorded in February, he said.

Before Bram’s speech to the LIA, the New York Fed released two polls showing that half of retailers and service firms and over a third of factories don’t expect the size of their workforce to surpass pre-pandemic levels in the next year. The bank surveyed about 125 factories in New York State and about 200 service businesses in the state, northern New Jersey and Fairfield County, Connecticut earlier this month, with Long Islanders participating in both polls.

In terms of consumer spending, "Nassau County doesn’t appear to have been hit quite as hard as Suffolk County or New York City," Bram said, citing a spending index from Opportunity Insights at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The index, which is based on where consumers live, has a positive number for Nassau and negative numbers for Suffolk and the city.

Bram also said the pandemic has worsened income inequality on Long Island. "At least in the short run," he said, "Look at the industries that have been hit hardest: leisure and hospitality, and to some extent, retail. A lot of low-income people work in these industries."

He said the $600-per-week supplement to unemployment benefits sustained many workers who received pink slips last spring, but the supplement ended months ago. The pandemic has "hit low-income people much harder," he said.

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