Last week jobless benefits claims were up. Today Rasmussen Reports showed that 4 out of 10 Americans strongly disapprove of the way Barack Obama is performing as President. Now more news:
A drumbeat of disappointing data about consumer behavior, factory sales and weak hiring in recent weeks has prompted economists to ratchet down their 2011 economic forecasts to as little as half what they expected at the beginning of the year.
Two months ago, Goldman Sachs projected that the economy would grow at a 4 percent annual rate in the quarter ending in June. The company now expects the government to report no more than 2 percent growth when data for the second quarter is released in a few weeks. Macroeconomic Advisers, a research firm, projected 3.5 percent growth back in April and is now down to just 2.1 percent for this quarter.
Two years into the official recovery, the economy is still behaving like a plane taxiing indefinitely on the runway. Few economists are predicting an out-and-out return to recession, but the risk has increased, with the health of the American economy depending in part on what is really “transitory.”
Economists say the unexpected shocks from Japan and the Middle East in the first half of the year go only partway toward explaining the deceleration. Many worries remain: housing prices have continued to fall, hiring is weak, wages are flat, growth in emerging economies like China and India is slowing and the debt crisis in Europe could have ripple effects.
What’s more, government stimulants like the payroll tax cut and the extension of unemployment benefits are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. With the underlying economy undeniably tepid, economists are concerned that further shocks to the system could knock the country off its slow upward trajectory.
“The likelihood of a negative surprise is bigger than the likelihood of a positive surprise,” said Jerry A. Webman, chief economist at OppenheimerFunds.
Glad to know that “hope and change” is working.