CFO Intelligence Magazine – Winter 2022
JLL Chief Economist,
Economic Expectations 2022
The Economy in 2022: No Shortage of Excitement!
CFOs and other senior executives developed new business relationships and reinforced existing ones at the well-attended January 25 CFO Intelligence Economic Expectations 2022 Digital Event. The virtual conference — hosted by CFO Intelligence and partners JLL, Divvy, and Sutherland — was one of a series of ongoing in-person, virtual and other networking activities designed to be informative and thought-provoking.
It featured a series of breakout chat rooms — where attendees could exchange ideas in a safe, secure and vetted environment — ahead of a presentation by keynote speaker JLL Chief Economist Ryan Severino, who focused on what’s ahead for the economy during 2022.
“There’s no shortage of excitement,” he said, beginning with the recent, COVID-driven recession “that was the shortest on record” at only two months, but still sparked “the highest unemployment rate in more than 70 years.”
It was followed by an economic burst prompted by “a perfect storm” of events, including the Federal Reserve’s ultra-low interest rate policy, aggressive stimulus programs, and the sudden release of “pent-up consumer demand” that expressed itself in a surge of spending. The proliferation of purchasing was good for commerce, but also helped trigger a bout of inflation that was “the highest in decades,” he added.
So, what’s ahead? Severino sees continued inflationary pressure, because “we’re still spending above-average time at home, and less on in-transit and in-office, which will continue the strain on the global supply chain and inflation, at least through the first quarter of 2022.”
But he expects some of that pressure to bleed off — especially if the federal government holds off on additional rounds of stimulus spending — “and by the end of the year, we’ll probably see inflation of 4% to 5%, compared to the current 7% level.”
He cautioned though, that wage pressures may not abate so quickly, since “even before the [pandemic] crisis, we faced more than 7 million open jobs because of demographics — the Baby Boomer retirement.”
IN A Q&A SESSION THAT FOLLOWED, SEVERINO ADDRESSED A RANGE OF RELATED ISSUES:
- International shipping company profits jumped during the pandemic. Did that contribute to the inflationary Spiral?
Severino: It’s about supply and demand. Until we stop buying goods with a voracious appetite, the pressure will continue.
- What about the unprecedented growth in the money supply that we’ve seen since 2020?
Severino: The money supply was pumped up in the last recession, but we didn’t experience inflation, because it was directed to banks and sat there. This time around we provided fiscal stimulus directly to consumers, so it circulated through the economy.
- What industries are at risk of not rebounding?
Severino: We’re seeing a reallocation of where we spend time. That will drive a change in how much space we need — people may need bigger homes, and new kinds of office space — which could be good for construction, although it will depend on the submarket. But our leisure activities are changing too, so travel will likely lag.
- We saw a big runup in the stock market. What will happen when it declines, or if the bubble bursts?
Severino: You’re seeing the “wealth effect,” where people spend more when they feel wealthier. But as interest rates go up, the market will adjust; and spending may be constrained through 2024.
- What would a fifth pandemic wave mean for the economy?
Severino: Every wave has been disruptive, but so far each has been less so than the prior one. Unless, of course, No. 5 is significantly worse, so more people will stay at home and buy more, and that will spur more inflation.
- What about the labor shortage we’re experiencing?
Severino: Employers need to stop paying lip service about how important their employees are. It’s not just about salaries, but other issues too, like career trajectory and benefits.
- Do we need to be worried about a residential real estate bubble?
Severino: We are undersupplied in housing so it’s not a pure bubble. The [population] growth is slowing, but with an estimated shortage of 4 to 6 million units there is no violation of fundamental economic demand.
He closed the presentation on a positive, though cautious, note: “Overall, we are in an expansion,” said Severino. “Are you planning for this? The recovery looks like it has legs through the middle of the decade, but you need to move fast and consider your business’ space and other needs.”