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2012: a better year for the US economy

By John H. Makin

From: www.aei.org,  January 10, 2012

The world saw such extraordinary uncertainty in 2011 that a simple failure to repeat that debilitating climate of uncertainty in 2012 may engender a moderate recovery, especially in the US economy. Hints of such a recovery in the United States have already appeared in the jobs market (in the form of a lower unemployment rate and lower initial jobs claims), stronger consumption figures, and even the heretofore moribund housing sector. Fourth-quarter growth may exceed a 3 percent rate. As a result, despite continued elevated tensions surrounding Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis and uncertainty about the sustainability of strong growth in China, US equity markets have strengthened, and we are seeing some modest improvements in the outlook for the US economy.

The year 2011 was to have been a time of extended economic recovery and further healing of the substantial wounds inflicted by the 2007–08 financial crisis. In the United States, 2010 ended with additional, though controversial, QE2 stimulus from the US Federal Reserve that saw the central bank adding to its balance sheet. The US Congress chimed in with another stimulus package that cut the payroll tax owed by virtually all working households by 2 percentage points (about $120 billion), extended expiring long-term unemployment benefits for another year, and boosted incentives for capital spending. Most analysts, myself included, were expecting close to a 4 percent growth rate, at least during the first half of 2011.

As it turned out, growth during the first three quarters of 2011 averaged just above a 1 percent annual rate, far short of the pace expected. An apparent pickup in the growth pace in the fourth quarter was coupled with the previously noted drop in the unemployment rate. Despite that, the pace of US economic growth in 2011, especially during the second half of the year, was disappointing, just as growth in Europe and China has been. ….Continua »

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