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Connecticut Economic Future Sluggish, Says SHU Student Report

Sacred Heart University
Sacred Heart University Economics Professor Lucjan Orlowski's class recently released its annual Connecticut Economic Outlook report, which provides a two-year forecast of Connecticut's economic health.

Connecticut’s economy is anything but boring. Revenue streams are fluctuating with a very volatile stock market. Last month the state was facing a $200 million deficit for this fiscal year. Now, state officials say, much to their surprise, there’s a $1 billion surplus.   

It seems it would be a tough task to predict what will happen in the next few years, but one noted economist and a group of his students have accepted that challenge. 

Lucjan Orlowski is a professor of economics at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. This month his students released a report, the Connecticut Economic Outlook for 2018-2020. The report projects the health of the state’s fiscal status over the next two years.

Professor Orlowski recently spoke to Morning Edition Host Tom Kuser to discuss his class's findings.

Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Thanks for joining us today.

Thank you, Tom. Good to be here.

How did your students react when you tell them they’re going to predict what seems to be unpredictable?

They’re very much committed to understanding what’s going on in the economy. They understand their future depends on the business climate.

Do you find at all that their fresh eyes, their youth, members of the younger generation, do they bring a different view, a different perspective than established economists might bring?

By all means that’s probably the most exciting part of the project. Their thoughts, their reflections are unconventional. Sometimes shocking in a way, but by all means they are refreshing.  

So shocking, that’s an interesting way to describe some of their ideas. Any examples of this?

I think the main difference is that our students want to do something about it. They just don’t look to the authorities in Washington or Hartford. They want to be more proactive.

So would we call these young people activist economists?

I would say yes. This particular exercise is aimed at promoting this activism. This active approach because it’s really their future, not necessarily ours.  

What would an activist economist do?

Take up more risk. Young people are just young, and they have nothing to lose so they can just engage in higher risk activities. For instance, in start-up businesses, they want to work for tech companies. That’s the main difference. And they also advocate a more holistic approach to resolving the budgetary problems and the structure changes in our economy. It’s not the tax cuts which will save our economy. But we really believe that we should build up on the major strength of our economy, which is a well-educated labor force. Our state is one of the most educated states in terms of the number of years of education of an average citizen. So build up on that educational strength and try to integrate it with businesses strategies.

So in this new report released this month by your students, what are they projecting for Connecticut’s economy for the 2018-2020 time period?

2018-2020 GDP outlook is not very optimistic. Our models indicate that the real state gross domestic product will grow at a rate of approximately 0.3 percent. So lagging behind the U.S. economy and even the world economy.

So they see the state as still lagging in the wake of the recession?

Lagging behind. We are projecting a recovery but a very, very sluggish recovery.

Do you agree personally with the student assessment and does that matter?

I agree with most of it personally. After all, I have influenced their way of thinking to some extent. But I also listen to them, to their aspirations in the future. So yes. If it matters, to the extent that they want to be engaged citizens. And some of them are even thinking about becoming political activists to make a change, to do something good for society. Unfortunately, many of them do not want to stay in Connecticut. They want to move out of state.

An illustration right there of some of the problem.

I think so. I think the cost of living is just simply too high and the environment for new start-up businesses for technology companies is not up to the standard where it should be for such a highly educated state.

Professor Orlowski, thank you very much for your time today.

Thank you, Tom.