Forecasters surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics show growing optimism about the U.S. economy’s direction this year but expect the pace of expansion to expand only 2.4 percent.
Forty-five economists surveyed by the NABE expect inflation-adjusted GDP growth to accelerate slightly in the second half of the year. They said business spending will rise strongly, housing starts will increase, unemployment will decline and consumer spending will remain subdued.
Economic growth is not expected to be strong enough to make much of a dent in the unemployment rate, which the NABE forecasters expect to average 8.3 percent this year before dropping to 7.8 percent next year. NABE economists see consumer spending rising just 2.1 percent this year and 2.3 percent next year, a rate below the historical average of 2.8 percent.
Economists surveyed by NABE lowered their projection for the value of import growth to 3.5 percent from 4.3 percent in their last previous survey in November. The economists expect exports to rise 4.6 percent, compared with their November prediction of 6.1 percent. They expect both rates to improve in 2013.
Journal of Commerce Economist Mario O. Moreno forecasts the volume of containerized imports to rise 4.5 percent this year, with growth from Europe and Latin America outpacing expected 2.8 percent growth in trans-Pacific imports. He forecasts containerized export volume to rise 3.5 percent this year.
The economists expect builders to break ground on 700,000 homes this year, up 15 percent from 2011, as the housing market continues a slow recovery. Business spending is expected to rise 8.1 percent this year and 7.3 percent next year, the forecasters said, with industrial production rising 3.5 percent this year and 3.3 percent next year.
In a separate report, the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation forecast inflation-adjusted GDP will expand 2.2 percent this year and 2.4 percent in 2013. The 2012 forecast represents a slight upgrade from the previously estimated 2.1 percent growth. The 2013 forecast is on par with MAPI’s last forecast in November.
“There is pent-up demand for consumer durable goods, especially motor vehicles. In addition, business investment is improving, and not just for repair and replacement of equipment – there is also investment in expanding capacity,” said Daniel J. Meckstroth, MAPI chief economist.
MAP’s quarterly economic forecast said manufacturing production will outpace the overall economy with growth of 4 percent in 2012 and 3.6 percent in 2013, compared with 3.4 percent in 2011.