One part data, one part art

September 21, 2022

Economics

By Nicole Hansen

Curtis Dubay, ’02, recently attended a career day for his son’s third grade class. His job is not the easiest thing to explain to elementary schoolers, though, as he is the chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“The way I explained it to them is I look at what families are buying and what they’re doing at their jobs and what they’re doing when they’re not at work to determine how much of that activity is going on at any given time,” Dubay said.

He joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in January of 2020 and says he’s been an economist in turbulent times most of his career. After graduating from the University of Richmond, he finished up graduate school in 2004 and joined the job market in 2005.

It’d be really nice to be doing this while things are normal.

“Basically, the whole time it’s been an unusual economic period,” he said. “It’d be really nice to be doing this while things are normal, but I think it’s more fun to be doing it when it’s totally without precedent.”

That attitude guided him through the two biggest periods of economic disruption in his career: the 2008 recession and the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s always had a knack for numbers, and that passion helps him make recommendations about legislation for the chamber to support or oppose on behalf of businesses all over the country. Right now, though, his eyes are on the economic impact of COVID-19 and the labor market in the coming years. But, he says, their predictions can go only so far, as much of studying the economy is educated guesswork.

“I always tell people no economist really knows what’s going on at any given time,” Dubay said. “We’re always wrong about everything, and you just try to be the least wrong in the right direction.”