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MUNCIE, Ind. — One economist is providing some clarity on how the coronavirus pandemic impacted the economy last year.

Thousands of people were left without work and many businesses closed in 2020. Many believe this was largely due to government-mandated shutdowns that forced businesses to close.

Dr. Mike Hicks, an economist at Ball State University, told Indy Politics though the shutdowns played a role, the data shows that the economic downturn experienced during the pandemic actually started in February of 2020 — a whole month before the first government action was taken.

“For example, consumer spending at grocery stores, restaurants, and accommodations had all flipped before the first government actions,” Hicks said. “Here in Indiana, we were already in recession. There was a 40-percent decline in fast-food and restaurant sales before the very first action, which was the Indianapolis restrictions.”

He said the direct effect of the disease on household spending and production caused the downturn. It was not the government shutdowns that sparked the recession, he said.

Hicks added that recovery also came before the government did anything with businesses adapting and finding ways to serve customers in the height of health restrictions.

As for the need for workers at businesses all over Indiana. Hicks acknowledges that the need for workers is real, but he said that the urgency for workers is being exaggerated a bit.

“I have a son who is home from college and he has applied to seven or eight jobs and has not heard back,” Hicks said “The urgency that you hear being stated doesn’t seem to match the reality on the ground. There’s also a lot of businesses that haven’t made the adjustment to higher wages. They haven’t figured out how to get more people into the labor force.”

Hicks also expects many people to just up and leave the workforce altogether, many of whom are retirement age folks who will likely “check out early.”