Chicago Economists Say 2009 Is a Year of Challenge

The economic forecast for 2009 is bleak, although it’s possible that recovery will begin mid-year. This is the opinion of William Strauss and Rick Mattoon, senior economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. “We are predicting that 2008 will yield real GDP of 0.2 percent and that 2009 will be 0.7 percent,” Strauss said. “This will be the slowest two-year growth period since 1981 – 1982, an 18-month recession that will be deeper than the 2000 and 1990 – 1991 recessions.”

Although some economists believe that the unemployment rate will hit double digits this year, Strauss and Mattoon optimistically predict that it will level off at approximately nine percent. Real income growth will be flat, and might even decline. The key to recovery is a thaw in the credit markets so that their performance improves.

Trade is holding its own; exports are still in positive territory. Strauss warns, however, that exports can’t be relied upon to drive to the economy, because the global recession means that foreign buyers will purchase less than they previously did.

Given their relative optimism, I wonder if Strauss and Mattoon agree with President Obama, who warned that failure to pass his $800 billion economic recovery package “could turn a crisis into a catastrophe”? Considering the bad review that Wall Street gave to Treasury Secretary Geithner’s preliminary plans for the use of the remaining $350 million of TARP money, it will be interesting to see how the markets react to the House-Senate conference committee’s compromise bill.