November 12, 2021 - Podcast

Episode 202—2022 economic forecast, and social-emotional learning

As 2022 nears, many questions have emerged about what to expect in the new year – including questions about the economy. Economists at the IU Kelley School of Business expect the U.S. and Indiana economies to remain somewhat resilient in 2022 amid challenges presented by COVID-19 and supply chain issues, but they say labor shortages will continue to be a major concern for many businesses. In fact, they say the U.S. economy may average only about 300,000 in added jobs each month, compared to an average rate of around 450,000 per month in the past 12 months. Bill Witte, author of the Kelley School’s U.S. forecast and associate professor emeritus of economics, says total employment remains 4.2 million below its pre-pandemic level. That deficit is not a result of deficient demand for labor, Witte says; rather, it reflects a severe decline in labor force participation. The labor market situation confounds other supply-side problems, he says, because building new capacity requires labor, both for construction and then eventually for staffing. The economists say Indiana, which has seen about 60,000 workers drop out of the labor force, will mirror the country, and most job gains in the state will be in services. Timothy Slaper, co-director of the Indiana Business Research Center, says they hope to see the workforce recover in Indiana by the end of 2022, but the economists say one sector of the labor market particularly expected to hamper economic output in Indiana is trucking. A national shortage leaves manufacturing-oriented states like Indiana in the middle of the supply-chain bottleneck, Slaper says. Moving beyond Indiana, the economists say the world economy is expected to expand by 4.9 percent in 2022, though growth will be uneven due to inequalities in countries’ vaccine access and the differences in their ability to provide fiscal and monetary stimulus to support the recovery.

In other news, social-emotional learning is the process through which young people develop self-awareness, manage emotions, show empathy, establish and maintain healthy relationships, and make responsible decisions. However, its use in schools has been under debate by some parents and activist groups. IU research scholar Dr. Sandy Washburn says the major concerns brought up about social-emotional learning are rooted in misinformation. She says it does not teach kids what values to have, but rather, helps them identify and manage emotions and strategies to deal with stress, helps them learn how to work better with their peers, and how to better understand themselves and others. For example, social-emotional skill lessons for very young children include learning how their senses help them learn, such as ears listening and eyes watching, and how they can notice becoming distracted and re-focus their attention. Lessons for teens include identifying causes of stress and anxiety and recognizing their own reactions, such as how their body feels when stressed and what thoughts and emotions arise when they are stressed? Washburn says to address parents’ worry about the use of social-emotional learning in their child’s school, it is important for teachers to explain what it looks like and how it benefits all students in the short and long term. She says there is an extensive amount of research showing the benefits of social-emotional learning, and in fact, most drug and alcohol misuse prevention programming recommends helping individuals become competent with social-emotional skills.