The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its latest projections for economic growth, unemployment, and the federal budget yesterday. Given these, it looks like we are in for some rough times ahead.
The group says the budget deficit could balloon by $2.1 trillion in fiscal 2020 and $600 billion in 2021. This increase may come primarily due to the stimulus packages the government has rolled out. The government released these checks in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The deficit increases equate to about 11% of nominal GDP in fiscal 2020 and 3% in 2021
The CBO expects the unemployment rate to trend higher in the coming months. This may get an average of 15.1% in the second quarter before peaking at 15.8% in the third quarter. They see the unemployment rate tapering down to 11.5% in the fourth quarter, which sounds encouraging. However, it’s still a double-digit unemployment rate.
They also warn that even as states reopen and businesses start to bring back workers, we shouldn’t expect businesses to go on an immediate hiring spree. According to the CBO, “persistence of social distancing will keep economic activity and labor market conditions suppressed for some time.”
The CBO’s projections for the second-quarter GDP is an astonishing 38% decline on an annualized basis. This, then, would be the single-largest GDP drop in our nation’s history. The CBO’s projections are consistent with what many on Wall Street are expecting. However, it's still not as bad as the projection by the Atlanta Federal Reserve, which sees a 42% decline.
A quick GDP recovery should occur according to the CBO. This may happen with the GDP growing 21.5% in the third quarter and 10.4% in the fourth quarter.
On The Brighter Side
There is a silver lining to the report. The CBO sees a recovery in the second half of the year. This may come as the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Additionally, the report says the stimulus money that was spent was worth it. It mentions that it may help in keeping up the GDP and employment rates higher than they would have been otherwise.
“The economy is expected to begin recovering during the second half of 2020 as concerns about the pandemic diminish and as state and local governments ease restrictions,” the CBO said before adding, “In CBO’s assessment, that legislation will partially mitigate the deterioration in economic conditions. In particular, greater federal spending and lower revenues will cause real GDP and employment to be higher over the next few years than they would be otherwise. The effects of the legislation on economic activity will be largest in the second and third quarters of 2020 and smaller thereafter, CBO projects.”
The massive caveat to the CBO’s report is that they acknowledge that everything has happened so quickly. Because of this, they are unsure of what could really happen next.
“For example, if the disease spreads less widely than CBO expects—because of testing and contact tracing, a vaccine, or for some other reason—the degree of social distancing could be lower and the economic recovery faster than what CBO currently projects. The opposite could also be the case,” the agency said. They also added that, “the extension, reversal, or reimplementation of different types of social distancing policies (such as stay-at-home orders, bans on large public gatherings, closures of specific kinds of businesses, and closures of schools) might have different effects on the economy.”