By Bryan Hay

Chris Ruebeck, associate professor of economics, joined academics from across the Lehigh Valley recently in wide-ranging discussions about the region’s response to the pandemic and the societal fallout from it.

Chris Ruebeck, associate professor of economics at Lafayette College

Chris Ruebeck

Faculty from Lafayette, Moravian, Muhlenberg, Cedar Crest, and Lehigh Carbon Community colleges offered their collective expertise for the 10th annual State of the Lehigh Valley, hosted by Lehigh Valley Research Consortium, a program of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges. The virtual event attracted more than 80 attendees. 

Ruebeck, who discussed the economic effects of the pandemic with co-author Sabrina Terrizzi, associate professor of economics and business at Moravian College, noted how the Lehigh Valley has experienced a significant loss of jobs, particularly in the leisure and hospitality sector, despite recovery efforts instituted in the region’s three cities. As long as spending on leisure and other nonessential activities remains stagnant, it will continue to be challenging for individuals in the service industry to make employment gains. 

However, as an area with some focus on education, health care, and manufacturing, the Lehigh Valley is positioned to navigate the crisis better than others, Ruebeck and Terrizzi noted. 

Although the economic difficulties continue, there are positive effects of efforts to address them at the individual, business, local, state, and national levels. 

Despite overall consumer spending having returned nearly to pre-COVID levels and unemployment continuing to decline, sustained efforts at all levels will need to be maintained to extend the benefits of the recovery to all sectors and households, Ruebeck said.

The presentation by Ruebeck and Terrizzi runs from 24:50 to 42:00 in the video

Other topics included perspectives from the 1918-19 influenza pandemic in Allentown, food access and affordability in the Lehigh Valley at the beginning of the pandemic, and understanding the psychosocial impact of COVID-19. The full report is available on the LVRC website.


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