PhillyInc: Survey shows promise for economy, jobs

Posted: February 21, 2013

Even in good times, economics is considered the "dismal science." In bad times, it's downright intolerable.

During this long winter of financial crisis-induced economic gloom, the pronouncements of economists have made it sound as if summer remained years off. Economic growth weak, job growth moribund.

While employment growth is considered a lagging economic indicator, an even more lagging indicator may be the viewpoints of professional forecasters themselves.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia released its latest quarterly Survey of Professional Forecasters last week and the results are practically cheerful by economists' standards.

How would you like growth in real gross domestic product to climb from 1.9 percent in 2013, to 2.8 percent in 2014, 2.9 percent in 2015, and 3.0 percent in 2016?

Those are the median figures from a survey of 41 economists, and they're a bit better than the predictions from three months ago.

Where the picture is even brighter is on the jobs front. Trends in monthly job growth nationally clearly showed improvement over the last six months of 2012.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said the U.S. economy created 181,000 jobs a month, on average, during 2012, up slightly from 175,000 a month in 2011.

The forecasters in the latest Fed survey have revised their predictions for total nonfarm employment growth to 164,100 a month in 2013 and 176,800 in 2014.

That may sound like a retreat from what the BLS has reported, but the Fed forecast reflects substantial improvement from just three months ago. According to survey results released in November, the forecasters saw employment growing at a monthly rate of 155,600 in 2012 and 143,300 in 2013.

And while monthly job growth of 164,100 would slowly tug the unemployment rate from the current 7.9 percent to about 7.4 percent 12 months from now, it's not strong enough to remind anyone of the job market that existed before the 2008 collapse of Lehman Bros. deflated a bubblicious economy.


Contact Mike Armstrong

at 215-854-2980 or marmstrong@phillynews.com, or @PhillyInc on Twitter. Read his blog, "PhillyInc," at www.phillyinc.biz.

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