A New Jersey economist says there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel for businesses and that government officials most likely will be unwilling to revisit the draconian shutdowns that happened during the height of the coronavirus outbreak in the spring.

James Hughes, a nationally recognized expert on the economy, demographics, housing markets and real estate development, said it could take until the middle of 2021 for the economy, once the vaccine is in full swing, to see a "bounce-back."

“We have some dark days ahead of us but eventually as we proceed through 2021, we’re going to see some substantial recovery," he said.

Hughes, former dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, said the 2020 shutdowns might have been "too broad."

In the months to come, he said, “we’re going to be much more circumspect in terms of shutting down the economy, that is, blanket closings of restaurants, what have you, that we had the first time.”

He noted some closures may be needed, “but I think now we know how to do it better with less harm to the overall economy.”

He pointed out that even when a significant number of New Jersey residents are vaccinated, things won’t simply snap back to normal because the pandemic has changed the workplace mindset of many employers.

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“Initially, they thought it was a short-term disruption but then they turned into long-term disruptions,” he said.

Hughes predicted that as winter turns to spring, “we’ll be adding restaurant jobs back, many of those face-to-face types of employments may start to recover. But then we face the issue of larger corporations reshaping themselves, reinventing themselves, realizing that the world has changed.”

That may lead to restructuring and layoffs.

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