According to our survey of economists, the economy will not return to normal until 2022 or later


It’s been almost four months Since the National Bureau of Economic Research announced that the United States has officially entered a recession, what a strange recession and recovery it has been.The stock market has Walk happily Since the beginning of the recession in February; Increase in disposable income Even if millions of Americans are unemployed; the unemployment rate has risen a lot Faster than economists expected.

But as winter approaches and what will happen to COVID-19, there is still a lot of uncertainty Cases start to increase againMany economists are still not optimistic about the speed at which we return to the pre-pandemic economic trajectory-although some signs may be improving.

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in MayFiveThirtyEight collaborated with the Global Market Initiative of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business to begin a bi-weekly survey of more than 30 quantitative macroeconomists. We ask economists to predict the trajectory of various economic indicators. After 10 rounds of questions, it is clear that on certain indicators—especially the unemployment rate—economists have become more optimistic about the speed of recovery. However, this optimism has not translated into greater confidence that we will soon return to normal economic conditions. In the latest round of investigationIn the survey conducted on October 9-12, economists agreed that the probability that the economy will not truly return to normal until 2022 or later is 66%.

“We usually think of a recession as a’tornado’ shape, and we are now in the slow part of a rebound,” said Jonathan Wright, Professor of Economics at Johns Hopkins University, he has been consulting with FiveThirtyEight on survey design. “It is always easier to say that recovery will be a slow process than knowing the recent trajectory. Therefore, although economists are more optimistic about the near-term prospects, they have largely maintained their view that damage requires It will take a long time to repair.”

We looked at some of the questions raised in almost every round of the survey to understand how the situation has changed from late spring to the present. On one issue-regarding the unemployment rate in December 2020-economists have clearly become more optimistic. The average point estimate of the unemployment rate in December fell from 12.8% at the end of May to 7.4% this round.

Of course, an important source of optimism is that workers have returned to work much faster than economists initially expected in the past few months. The unemployment rate in September was 7.9% -From below 14.7% in AprilTherefore, in a sense, the current December forecast of 7.4% is actually quite pessimistic-because it means that, on average, economists believe that the unemployment rate will fall by less than one percentage point in the next three months The possibility is great.

At the same time, when it comes to fourth-quarter gross domestic product, economists’ forecasts are basically back to where they started. In early June, economists predicted a 4.2% GDP growth in the survey, with a relatively wide confidence interval. In the previous round, the forecast improved only slightly, reaching 4.9%, and the confidence interval was just as wide—indicating that they were not more certain about the results in the next few months.

Of course, it is worth noting that their forecast for the third quarter GDP is significantly more optimistic during the summer, which may be part of the reason why they do not expect more quarter-on-quarter growth between the past two quarters. year. But please note that economists are still uncertain about our economic situation at the end of the year. Alan TimmermanAn economics professor at the University of California, San Diego has also been consulting with FiveThirtyEight on the survey. He said that the average uncertainty range of economists around their point estimates has basically not changed since June, which is “really extraordinary. “. “Usually, over such a long period of time, the uncertainty will be significantly reduced,” he said.

Timmerman attributes uncertainty to the fact that there are still many unknowns about how the pandemic will evolve. He said: “The uncertainty of the trajectory of the virus and its impact on service industries such as hotels, tourism, entertainment, and dining out is still at the forefront and has not yet been truly resolved.” “Many companies hope to survive the virus, but Even at this point, it is not clear how long the pandemic will last.”

This may be why economists’ long-term estimates are almost as pessimistic as they were at the beginning of the survey. In each round, we asked them when the GDP will return to pre-pandemic levels. Earlier, economists believed that there was a 67% chance that we would not be able to return to that point until the first half of 2022 at the earliest. In the last round, this outlook remained basically unchanged.

Economists still believe that recovery will be slow

Experts’ estimate of when real GDP will catch up with the pre-crisis level (Q4 2019)

second round Round 10 the difference
Earlier than the first half of 2021 2% 1% -1
First half of 2021 11 8 -3
Second half of 2021 twenty one 25 +4
First half of 2022 twenty two 26 +4
The second half of 2022 20 20 0
First half of 2023 12 11 -1
The second half of 2023 7 5 -2
After the second half of 2023 6 4 -2

The response comes from a survey of experts conducted from May to October. Questions related to when GDP will return to pre-pandemic levels were worded differently in the first round of surveys and therefore are not included in the table.

Source: FivethIRTYEIGHT/IGM COVID-19 Economic Survey

At the same time, Wright thinks there may be more bad news waiting for us-partly because of Congress Still not taking action to pass the second wave of fiscal stimulus measures, Economist Keep telling us used to be Must accelerate This Economic recoveryHe said: “Delayed fiscal stimulus measures and bad news about the virus may indeed lead to a second dip later this year.”

Neil Paine contributed to research.



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