Looking at the economic impact of COVID-19 on West Virginia

Dr. Avi Mukherjee, dean of the Lewis College of Business and its Brad D. Smith Schools of...
Dr. Avi Mukherjee, dean of the Lewis College of Business and its Brad D. Smith Schools of Business, talks about the economic impact of COVID-19.(WSAZ)
Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 7:23 PM EDT
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It’s a once in a generation crisis, one of unprecedented proportions.

“So this can be more serious technically than the depression or the last recession, which is scary,” said Dr. Avinandan “Avi” Mukherjee, dean of the Lewis College of Business and its Brad D. Smith Schools of Business at Marshall University.

Avi tells WSAZ, there have been definite highs and lows during this crisis. Luckily the U.S. economy was strong prior to the pandemic. He estimates one-quarter of the U.S. economy has gone idle.

“What were we not prepared for? I think supply chain is a big one,” Mukherjee said. “We were perhaps more reliant upon cheapest source of delivery for various industries in various ways.”

A recent survey done by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that 54 percent of U.S. businesses have closed. About 24 percent of them will not recover.

The COVID-19 pandemic has become a wake-up call for many.

The U.S. is understanding the importance of digital technologies as students rely on internet networks to complete coursework.

Meanwhile, small shops are making adjustments to their business models to stay afloat.

“Creating budget cuts,” Mukherjee said. “Things we need to try and do first before we lay off employees or reduce their salaries significantly.”

In the future, the work from home movement may be more popular for some businesses.

People might even return to work in places like West Virginia after previously leaving their hometown for bigger cities.

“They realize now that they can come back to their towns and their cities and live there and work anywhere with any company, because distance doesn’t matter anymore,” said Mukherjee.

He says it’s a time to pause, reset and innovate.

More than 96 percent of businesses in West Virginia are small businesses and employ about 50 percent of the workforce.

Recovery will be dependent on how long stores are closed, and it's possible that the economy could bounce back even stronger.

According to Avi, certain industries have done well during the crisis, including telehealth and family care as people take more time and energy to look after each another.

Consumers will likely change habits following this experience and businesses will need to adapt to those expectations.