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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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Fourth Quarter 2016 Survey of Professional Forecasters

Forecasters Predict Slightly Lower Growth over the Next Three Years

Growth in the U.S. economy looks slightly weaker now than it did three months ago, according to 42 forecasters surveyed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia before the election on November 8. The forecasters expect real GDP to grow at an annual rate of 2.2 percent this quarter and in each of the next four quarters in 2017. On an annual-average over annual-average basis, the forecasters see real GDP growing 1.5 percent in 2016, no change from the estimate in the survey of three months ago. The forecasters predict real GDP will grow 2.2 percent in 2017, 2.1 percent in 2018, and 2.1 percent in 2019. The forecasts for 2017, 2018, and 2019 are slightly weaker than the previous estimates.

The projections for unemployment are little changed from those of the previous survey. The forecasters predict the unemployment rate will average 4.9 percent in 2016, before falling to 4.7 percent in 2017, 4.6 percent in 2018, and 4.7 percent in 2019. The current projections for 2018 and 2019 are unchanged from those of the previous survey.

On the employment front, the forecasters have revised upward marginally their estimates for job gains in 2016 and 2017. The forecasters’ projections for the annual-average level of nonfarm payroll employment suggest job gains at a monthly rate of 206,000 in 2016, up slightly from the previous estimate of 204,600, and 173,600 in 2017, up from the previous estimate of 161,100. (These annual-average estimates are computed as the year-to-year change in the annual-average level of nonfarm payroll employment, converted to a monthly rate.)

Median Forecasts for Selected Variables in the Current and Previous Surveys
 
Real GDP (%)
Unemployment Rate (%)
Payrolls (000s/month)
Previous
New
Previous
New
Previous
New
Quarterly data:
2016:Q4
2.3
2.2
4.7
4.8
169.8
176.9
2017:Q1
2.3
2.2
4.7
4.8
159.9
161.0
2017:Q2
2.3
2.2
4.6
4.7
164.9
179.2
2017:Q3
2.1
2.2
4.6
4.7
159.4
166.2
2017:Q4
N.A.
2.2
N.A.
4.7
N.A.
166.0
 
Annual data (projections are based on annual-average levels):
2016
1.5
1.5
4.8
4.9
204.6
206.0
2017
2.3
2.2
4.6
4.7
161.1
173.6
2018
2.2
2.1
4.6
4.6
N.A.
N.A.
2019
2.2
2.1
4.7
4.7
N.A.
N.A.

The charts below provide some insight into the degree of uncertainty the forecasters have about their projections for the rate of growth in the annual-average level of real GDP. Each chart presents the forecasters’ previous and current estimates of the probability that growth will fall into each of 11 ranges. For 2016, the panelists are more certain now than they were in the previous survey that growth will be between 1.0 to 1.9 percent. For 2017, 2018, and 2019, the probability estimates for growth are about the same now as they were in the survey of three months ago.

The forecasters' density projections for unemployment, shown below, shed light on their uncertainty about the labor market over the next four years. Each chart presents the forecasters’ current estimates of the probability that unemployment will fall into each of 10 ranges. The charts show the probabilities are mostly unchanged compared with the survey of three months ago.

Inflation Outlook Holds Steady

The forecasters see little change in the outlook for headline CPI inflation compared with their predictions of three months ago. Measured on a fourth-quarter over fourth-quarter basis, headline CPI inflation is expected to average 1.5 percent in 2016, 2.2 percent in 2017, and 2.2 percent in 2018. The projections for headline PCE inflation over the next three years remained unchanged from the survey of three months ago. Measured on a fourth-quarter over fourth-quarter basis, headline PCE inflation is expected to average 1.4 percent in 2016, 1.9 percent in 2017, and 2.0 percent in 2018.

Over the next 10 years, 2016 to 2025, the forecasters expect headline CPI inflation to average 2.22 percent at an annual rate, up slightly from the previous estimate of 2.15 percent. The corresponding estimate for 10-year annual-average PCE inflation is 2.00 percent, which is unchanged from the previous estimate.

Median Short-Run and Long-Run Projections for Inflation (Annualized Percentage Points)
 
Headline CPI
Core CPI
Headline PCE
Core PCE
Previous
Current
Previous
Current
Previous
Current
Previous
Current
Quarterly
2016:Q4
2.2
2.2
2.1
2.1
1.9
1.9
1.6
1.7
2017:Q1
2.2
2.2
2.1
2.2
1.9
1.8
1.8
1.8
2017:Q2
2.2
2.2
2.2
2.2
2.0
1.9
1.8
1.8
2017:Q3
2.3
2.2
2.2
2.2
2.0
1.9
1.9
1.9
2017:Q4
N.A.
2.2
N.A.
2.2
N.A.
2.0
N.A.
1.9
 
Q4/Q4 Annual Averages
2016
1.6
1.5
2.2
2.2
1.4
1.4
1.8
1.8
2017
2.3
2.2
2.2
2.2
1.9
1.9
1.9
1.9
2018
2.3
2.2
2.2
2.2
2.0
2.0
2.0
1.9
 
Long-Term Annual Averages
2016-2020
2.10
2.13
N.A.
N.A.
1.90
1.90
N.A.
N.A.
2016-2025
2.15
2.22
N.A.
N.A.
2.00
2.00
N.A.
N.A.

The charts below show the median projections (red line) and the associated interquartile ranges (gray areas around the red line) for the projections for 10-year annual-average CPI and PCE inflation. The top panel highlights a marginally higher level of the long-term projection for CPI inflation. The bottom panel depicts an unchanged 10-year forecast for PCE inflation.

The figures below show the probabilities that the forecasters are assigning to the possibility that fourth-quarter over fourth-quarter core PCE inflation in 2016 and 2017 will fall into each of 10 ranges. For 2017, the forecasters assign a higher chance than they previously predicted that core PCE inflation will be between 1.5 to 2.9 percent.

Downward Revisions Characterize the Risk of a Negative Quarter

The forecasters see much less than a one-in-five chance of a contraction in real GDP in any of the next five quarters. For the current quarter, they predict a 9.9 percent chance of negative growth, down from 15.6 percent in the survey of three months ago. The forecasters also see a lower probability of a negative quarter in the first three quarters in 2017 than they estimated three months ago.

Risk of a Negative Quarter (%)
Survey Means
Quarterly data: Previous New
2016:Q4
15.6
9.9
2017:Q1
18.5
14.0
2017:Q2
19.0
15.0
2017:Q3
21.0
16.5
2017:Q4
N.A.
18.9

Technical Note
The survey was conducted between October 28 and November 8, 2016. The panelists were not aware of the results of the presidential election when they submitted their responses.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia thanks the following forecasters for their participation in recent surveys:

Lewis Alexander, Nomura Securities; Scott Anderson, Bank of the West (BNP Paribas Group); Robert J. Barbera, Johns Hopkins University Center for Financial Economics; Peter Bernstein, RCF Economic and Financial Consulting, Inc.; Christine Chmura, Ph.D., and Xiaobing Shuai, Ph.D., Chmura Economics & Analytics; Gary Ciminero, CFA, GLC Financial Economics; Nathaniel Curtis, Navigant Consulting; Gregory Daco, Oxford Economics USA, Inc.; Rajeev Dhawan, Georgia State University; Robert Dietz, National Association of Home Builders; Gabriel Ehrlich, Daniil Manaenkov, Ben Meiselman and Aditi Thapar, RSQE, University of Michigan; Michael R. Englund, Action Economics, LLC; Larry Filer, Old Dominion University; J.D. Foster, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Michael Gapen, Barclays Capital; James Glassman, JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Jan Hatzius, Goldman Sachs; Keith Hembre, Nuveen Asset Management; Peter Hooper, Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc.; IHS Markit; Sam Kahan, Kahan Consulting Ltd. (ACT Research LLC); N. Karp, BBVA Research USA; Walter Kemmsies, Moffatt & Nichol; Jack Kleinhenz, Kleinhenz & Associates, Inc.; Thomas Lam, RHB Securities Singapore Pte. Ltd.; L. Douglas Lee, Economics from Washington; John Lonski, Moody’s Capital Markets Group; Macroeconomic Advisers, LLC; R. Anthony Metz, Pareto Optimal Economics; Michael Moran, Daiwa Capital Markets America; Joel L. Naroff, Naroff Economic Advisors; Mark Nielson, Ph.D., MacroEcon Global Advisors; Luca Noto, Anima Sgr; Brendon Ogmundson, BC Real Estate Association; Tom Porcelli, RBC Capital Markets; Arun Raha and Maira Trimble, Eaton Corporation; Philip Rothman, East Carolina University; Chris Rupkey, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ; John Silvia, Wells Fargo; Allen Sinai, Decision Economics, Inc.; Sean M. Snaith, Ph.D., University of Central Florida; Constantine G. Soras, Ph.D., CGS Economic Consulting; Stephen Stanley, Amherst Pierpont Securities; Charles Steindel, Ramapo College of New Jersey; Susan M. Sterne, Economic Analysis Associates, Inc.; James Sweeney, Credit Suisse; Thomas Kevin Swift, American Chemistry Council; Richard Yamarone, Bloomberg, LP; Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics; Ellen Zentner, Morgan Stanley.

This is a partial list of participants. We also thank those who wish to remain anonymous.

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Tom Stark
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
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Philadelphia, PA 19106
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