Federal Reserve Bank economist tells Schuylkill Chamber she's cautiously optimistic economy

Feb. 9—LLEWELLYN — A Federal Reserve Bank economist painted a cautiously optimistic picture Thursday morning during the Schuylkill County Chamber of Commerce economic forecast breakfast.

Kali Aloisi, an economic outreach associate in the Fed’s Philadelphia office, spoke to about 50 business leaders at Massari’s Blu Tavern Restaurant.

Overall, the economy rebounded strongly from losses during the pandemic, but as of late, has shown signs of cooling.

The good news is that unemployment has dropped to 3.4% nationally, the lowest since 1969.

But while there is a high demand for labor, there are not enough workers to fill the jobs, creating an imbalance.

Responding to a question from the audience, Aloisi said the reasons for the labor shortage are complex.

Factors include early retirements taken during the pandemic; layoffs at an all-time low; an ongoing migration of workers to the south; and workers changing jobs.

“The generation that is leaving the workforce,” she said, “is not being fully replaced.”

Supply chain issues, exacerbated by port closures during the pandemic, are still elevated but not as bad as during the pandemic.

Food and housing prices remain high, Aloisi said, but inflation has declined.

During a question-and-answer session, an audience member asked about the impact of high prices on those at the lower end of the economic spectrum.

An economic analysis showed that people in the middle and upper income levels had more money in their checking accounts and were better able to weather inflation.

For the bottom 40% of earners, who spend a high portion of their money on food and housing, the impact of inflation has been much harsher.

Concerning recession, Aloisi said we are not in a recession yet and that things are looking somewhat hopeful.

“Consumers are still spending, and businesses have grown a little more cautiously optimistic,” she said. “And that’s where I stand as well.”

Robert S. Carl Jr., chamber president and CEO, said the Fed’s analyses are helpful to businesses.

“They provide tangible insights on the economy that people can use in their own communities,” he said.

In introducing Aloisi, Carl said she has a master’s degree in applied statistics from the University of Michigan.

“She has a personal interest in statistical analysis,” he said, “and enjoys applying those concepts to understanding real-world problems.”

Samantha Chivinski, chamber executive vice president, gave the invocation.

Kim Lorimer, who chairs the chamber’s board of directors, introduced Michelle Lewandowski, a vice president of Customers Bank, West Reading. The bank sponsored the economic forecast breakfast.

Contact the writer: rdevlin@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6007