“It’s fantastic to see all of you face-to-face after three years,” said Alberto Garofalo, market president, New Jersey, Bank of America, as he helped kick off the New Jersey Bankers Association (NJBankers) Annual Economic Leadership Forum, held Jan. 20 at The Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset.
The event brought together a huge crowd, a slate of heavy-hitter speakers, and a series of panels and discussions on topics such as climate change, supporting community and economic growth in New Jersey, the evolving cyber threat landscape, the economic outlook, monetary policy, and more.
“Part of NJBankers mission is to consistently bring value to our members,” said Michael Affuso, president and CEO of NJBankers, in advance of the event. “By providing these types of educational opportunities, led by speakers who are global experts in their given fields, we’re giving members exclusive access to information designed to achieve growth and success.”
As Affuso spoke at the outset of the event, he reiterated that the speakers and panelists were high-profile and highly respected voices in politics, climate change, the future of work and the nation’s economy.
Among those on the lineup were: Patrick Harker, president, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia; Ethan Harris, head of global economics research, Bank of America Securities; Jeh Johnson, former secretary of Homeland Security; Clinton Andrew, associate dean for research, professor of urban planning and policy development director, Center for Green Building Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy, Rutgers University, and many more.
Harker made some particularly noteworthy comments as he laid out the perspective from the Fed about the economy in general, trends here in New Jersey, as well as issues everyone is facing nationally, such as inflation, supply chains, the labor market, and whether a recession is on the way.
“GDP growth will be modest, but I’m not forecasting a recession,” said Harker. “The labor markets are simply too hot to indicate a significant downturn at this point. I expect real GDP growth of about 1% this year before climbing back up to trend growth of about 2% in 2024 and 2025.”
Harker stressed that its worth taking a step back and considering much has transpired over the past several years, especially the economic impacts caused by COVID-19.
“You really can’t understand where our economy is, or where it’s going, without considering where we’ve come from,” he explained.
In describing the pandemic as a “public health catastrophe on a global scale that is unprecedented in any of our lifetimes,” Harker said the tribulations of the U.S. economy over this period have been startling as well.
“During the early part of the pandemic, the national economy suffered its largest contraction in recorded history as the virus spread and state and local governments shuttered businesses that they deemed nonessential,” said Harker. “Tens of millions of Americans were thrown into joblessness in one of the sharpest recessions in American history. That downturn was followed by a period of extraordinary economic growth as states loosened restrictions and, with astonishing rapidity, highly effective vaccines against COVID-19 were developed and deployed.”
“But even as the economy came roaring back to health, scars were visible,” Harker added.
In the next issue of NJBIZ, we will further examine those scars along with more from the forum.