WASHINGTON — More than 90 percent of economists predict the recession will end this year, although the recovery is likely to be bumpy.
That assessment came from leading forecasters in a survey by the National Association for Business Economics released Wednesday. It is generally in line with the outlook from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues.
About 74 percent of the forecasters expect the recession — which started in December 2007 and is the longest since World War II — to end in the third quarter. Another 19 percent predict the turning point will come in the final three months of this year, and the remaining 7 percent believe the recession will end in the first quarter of 2010.
“While the overall tone remains soft, there are emerging signs that the economy is stabilizing,” said NABE president Chris Varvares, head of Macroeconomic Advisers. “The economic recovery is likely to be considerably more moderate than those typically experienced following steep declines.”
One of the major forces that plunged the economy into a recession was the financial crisis that struck with force last fall and was the worst since the 1930s. Economists say recoveries after financial crises tend to be slower.
Against that backdrop, unemployment will climb this year even if the economy is rebounding, the NABE forecasters predict. Companies won’t be in a rush to hire until they feel certain any recovery is firmly rooted.
For all of this year, the forecasters said the unemployment rate should average 9.1 percent, a big jump from 5.8 percent last year and up from its current quarter-century peak of 8.9 percent. If NABE forecasters are right, it would be the highest since a 9.6 percent rate in 1983, when the country was struggling to recover from a severe recession.
Some forecasters thought unemployment could rise as high as 10.7 percent in the second quarter of 2010. The NABE outlook from 45 economists was conducted April 27 through May 11.
General Motors Corp., chemical company DuPont and Clear Channel Communications Inc. were among the companies announcing mass layoffs during the survey period.
With joblessness rising, consumers likely will stay cautious, making for a tepid turnaround. And given the big bite the recession has taken out of household wealth, consumers probably will stay subdued for some time.