n Most economists think it will happen at the end of the year, but recovery will be slow.
By JEANNINE AVERSA
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – More than 90 percent of economists predict the recession will end this year, although the recovery is likely to be bumpy.
That assessment came from leading forecasters in a survey by the National Association for Business Economics to be released today.
It is generally in line with the outlook from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues.
About 74 percent of the forecasters expect the recession – which started in December 2007 and is the longest since War World II – to end in the third quarter. Another 19 percent predict the turning point will come in the final three months of this year, and the remaining 7 percent believe the recession will end in the first quarter of 2010.
“While the overall tone remains soft, there are emerging signs that the economy is stabilizing,” said NABE president Chris Varvares, head of Macroeconomic Advisers. “The economic recovery is likely to be considerably more moderate than those typically experienced following steep declines.”
One of the major forces that plunged the economy into a recession was the financial crisis that struck with force last fall and was the worst since the 1930s. Economists say recoveries after financial crises tend to be slower.
Against that backdrop, unemployment will climb this year even if the economy is rebounding, the NABE forecasters predict. Companies won’t be in a rush to hire until they feel certain any recovery is firmly rooted.
For all of this year, the forecasters said the unemployment rate should average 9.1 percent, a big jump from 5.8 percent last year and up from its current quarter-century peak of 8.9 percent. If NABE forecasters are right, it would be the highest since a 9.6 percent rate in 1983, when the country was struggling to recover from a severe recession.
Some forecasters thought the unemployment rate could rise as high as 10.7 percent in the second quarter of next year. The NABE outlook from 45 economists was conducted April 27 through May 11.
With joblessness rising, consumers – major shapers of overall economic activity – likely will stay cautious, making for a tepid turnaround. And given the big bite the recession has taken out of household wealth, notably the values of homes and investment portfolios, consumers probably will stay subdued for some time.
Seventy-one percent of the forecasters believe a more-thrifty consumer will be around for at least the next five years. Americans’ personal savings rate edged up to 4.2 percent in March, marking the first time in a decade that the savings rate has been above 4 percent for three straight months.
Even as the NABE forecasters believe the country will emerge from recession later this year, they also predict the economy’s overall performance in 2009 will be rotten.
The economy should contract by 2.8 percent this year, the forecasters said in updated projections. That’s worse than the 1.9 percent drop under their old forecast.
If they are right, it would mark the worst annual contraction since 1946, when economic activity fell by 11 percent.
Still, the forecasters believe the worst is already behind the country in terms of lost economic activity.