US Economy, Jobs Unchanged Next Year, Economists Predict

The US economy will continue its slow growth next year and joblessness will remain high, according to a survey released this morning by the National Association for Business Economics.

“Economists responding to the latest NABE Outlook Survey expect moderate economic growth through 2012, with little likelihood of another recession or an outbreak of inflation,” said NABE Outlook Survey Chair Shawn DuBravac, chief economist at the Consumer Electronics Association.

In the survey, those who responded expect inflation-adjusted gross domestic product, known as real GDP, to  grow at 2.5 percent in the final quarter of 2011 and 2.4 percent in 2012.

Unemployment, the group said, is expected to decline slightly next year from its current 9 percent level.  Business spending and housing starts are expected to continue to rise. “Corporate profits and stock prices are predicted to strengthen. But the panel remains concerned about debt-related issues in Europe,” the NABE said.

Highlights from the report:

    • The NABE Outlook panel predicts moderate real GDP growth through year-end 2012. A 2.5 percent pace is expected during the fourth quarter of 2011, followed by a 2.4 percent growth rate in 2012, with GDP in the second half of 2012 slightly stronger than in the first half.
    • The odds of a second recession are low. Only two of 42 forecasters predicted a decline in real GDP over the nearterm. As a group, the panelists saw a recession as the least likely scenario. Forecast confidence has improved, but remains low.
    • The NABE Outlook panel expects employment will improve, albeit very slowly. Monthly job gains are expected to rise steadily over the forecast horizon, from an average of 100,000 during the fourth quarter of 2011 to 130,000 by the end of next year. The jobless rate will decline from 9.1 percent to 8.9 percent in 2012, but despite a majority view of modest labor market improvement, NABE economists still identified “excessive unemployment” as their single greatest concern going forward.
    • Growth in consumer spending is expected to remain below trend. Consumer spending is forecast to increase 2.1 percent this year—the same consumer spending forecast as reported in the September survey. The NABE Outlook Survey panel expects consumer spending to grow 2.1 percent in 2012.
    • Housing starts are expected to increase 10 percent in 2012. The economists participating in the survey expect housing starts to reach 600,000 units in 2011, just slightly above the 2010 total and a small upward revision from the September Outlook Survey forecast.
    • Business spending remains a bright spot in the forecast. NABE’s Outlook panel continues to forecast solid if not spectacular growth in spending on business equipment and software in both 2011 (up 10.5 percent) and 2012 (an additional increase of 8 percent). The forecast for real spending on nonresidential structures improved from that reported in the September survey. Panelists now envisage spending on structures to increase 4.6 percent in 2011 and 4.5 percent next year. Industrial production is expected to increase 4 percent in 2011 and 3.3 percent in 2012.