Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Unemployment Forecast: Too Much "Hope"

by Bill McBride on 7/01/2009 12:07:00 AM

From David Leonhardt at the NY Times: A Forecast With Hope Built In

In the weeks just before President Obama took office, his economic advisers made a mistake. They got a little carried away with hope.

... Without the stimulus, they saw the unemployment rate — then 7.2 percent — rising above 8 percent in 2009 and peaking at 9 percent next year. With the stimulus, the advisers said, unemployment would probably peak at 8 percent late this year.

We now know that this forecast was terribly optimistic.
Here is the January forecast with the actual data ...

Stress Test Unemployment Rate Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph compares the actual quarterly unemployment rate (in red) with the Obama economic forecast from January 10th: The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

There are two possible explanations that the administration was so wrong. ... The first explanation is that the economy has deteriorated because the stimulus package failed. ... The second answer is that the economy has deteriorated in spite of the stimulus.
Very little of the stimulus has been spent so far, so it is premature to say it failed. However Romer recently was quoted in the Financial Times:
Ms Romer said stimulus spending was “going to ramp up strongly through the summer and the fall”.

“We always knew we were not going to get all that much fiscal impact during the first five to six months. The big impact starts to hit from about now onwards,” she said.

Ms Romer said that stimulus money was being disbursed at almost exactly the rate forecast by the Office of Management and Budget. “It should make a material contribution to growth in the third quarter.”
So we should see an impact in the 2nd half of 2009 ... and that starts now!