The Rundown: Highlights from the week of June 22

Expert perspectives from Cornell SC Johnson College of Business faculty on COVID-19’s impact on business, hospitality, and the economy.

By: Stephen D'Angelo
Illustration of economic charts, a map, and covid-19 virus

Job market: Help wanted

Cornell Chronicle— With millions of workers on the unemployment lines due to business reductions around the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much unknown about the current U.S. labor market and job availability through out the country. A new study that leverages big data on job-vacancy postings in recent months reveals several dimensions of the impact the pandemic is having on the U.S. job market and shows possible challenges to the scale and speed of a recovery.

“We find that firms have cut back on postings for high-skill jobs more than for low-skill jobs, with small firms nearly halting their new hiring altogether,” says Murillo Campello, the Lewis H. Durland Professor of Management at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, who authored the paper. “New-hiring cuts and worker downskilling are most pronounced in localities where employment is concentrated in the hands of a few firms, in low-income areas and in areas with greater income inequality.” According to Campello, the findings raise concerns around the future of job availability post-COVID, when overall economic conditions improve. “We show that the pandemic has its worst effects in places that already have the worst levels of economic inequality,” he said. “It is clearly going to make those differences more acute.”

Food: Chain reaction

WebMD— Looking back several months, there were real worries at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders around if there would be enough food available on store shelves. The food supply chain did weather the storm, but its flaws were highlighted, presenting many to look towards the future. “Our food supply chain is resilient in general, but in the short run, this pandemic demonstrated that it doesn’t respond to crisis as quickly as we need,” says Miguel Gomez, Robert G. Tobin Professor of Food Marketing at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics.

While experts are now not afraid stores will run out of food entirely, the shocks the pandemic caused supply chains have changed the food landscape. For example, higher prices and the variety of products available are a new reality. “What we’re seeing now is that the variety, the assortment of food in the grocery stores, is less,” Gomez says, pointing to further likely trends. “We are entering a recession. For many households, income is going to drop. If I were a farmer or a food manufacturer, I would be thinking that these people will shift from fancy specialty foods to more basic foods at lower prices. I think that’s going to be a trend that’s going to affect the supply chains. I think we’re going to see that very soon.”

Design: Soothing the soul

TODAY—With citizens across the United States becoming better acquainted with their homes during COVID-19 self-isolation protocols and work-from-home orders, experts say there are ways to leverage the home, specifically home design, to better your mental health. Senior Lecturer Stephani Robson, an expert on how the design of environments affect consumer intentions, satisfaction, and behavior, at the School of Hotel Administration, says we are wired from an evolutionary standpoint to use our environment to protect ourselves. Humans don’t have any physically natural weapons and we cannot outrun a wolf, she explains, so when we are “feeling stressed or insecure we like to pull into ourselves in our spaces.” It is in our nature, she said. In the home, this could mean anything from sliding a chair from one place in a room to another, rearranging bed placement in the bedroom, adding a bit of color to the walls, and brightening up a room with plants. Robson explains that this is due to a psychological attribute called ‘perceived control.’ When we don’t feel like we have control, such as during lock-down measures when leaving the house or having guests visit is forbidden, “that increases stress level,” which can come out as anger, frustration or boredom. “Reorganizing can provide a sense of control over the environment that you’re in,” she said.