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Second Quarter 2017 Survey of Professional Forecasters

Forecasters Predict Slightly Brighter Outlook for Growth and Labor Markets over the Next Four Quarters

The U.S. economy over the next four quarters looks slightly stronger now than it did three months ago, according to 37 forecasters surveyed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The forecasters predict real GDP will grow at an annual rate of 3.1 percent this quarter, up from the previous estimate of 2.3 percent. Quarterly growth over the following three quarters also looks improved. On an annual-average over annual-average basis, the forecasters predict real GDP will grow 2.1 percent in 2017, 2.5 percent in 2018, 2.1 percent in 2019, and 2.3 percent in 2020.

An improved outlook for the unemployment rate accompanies the outlook for growth. The forecasters predict that the unemployment rate will average 4.5 percent in the current quarter, before falling to 4.4 percent in the next two quarters, and 4.3 percent in the first two quarters of 2018. The projections for the next four quarters (and the next four years) are below those of the last survey, indicating a brighter outlook for unemployment.

The panelists also predict an improvement in near-term employment. The forecasters see nonfarm payroll employment growing at a rate of 177,300 jobs per month this quarter, up from the previous estimate of 167,000. The projections for the following three quarters are also higher than those of the last survey. The forecasters’ projections for the annual-average level of nonfarm payroll employment suggest job gains at a monthly rate of 182,600 in 2017 and 162,800 in 2018. (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:
2017:Q2
2.3
3.1
4.6
4.5
167.0
177.3
2017:Q3
2.4
2.5
4.6
4.4
168.9
170.7
2017:Q4
2.4
2.4
4.5
4.4
160.3
165.2
2018:Q1
2.2
2.4
4.5
4.3
157.6
166.7
2018:Q2
N.A.
2.7
N.A.
4.3
N.A.
159.3
 
Annual data (projections are based on annual-average levels):
2017
2.3
2.1
4.6
4.5
180.3
182.6
2018
2.4
2.5
4.5
4.3
164.5
162.8
2019
2.6
2.1
4.5
4.4
N.A.
N.A.
2020
2.1
2.3
4.6
4.5
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. The charts show the forecasters are holding steady their estimates of uncertainty about growth in the next four years.

The forecasters’ density projections for unemployment, shown below, shed light on 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 panelists are raising their density estimates for unemployment less than 4.9 percent over the next four years.

Forecasters Expect Lower Headline Inflation in 2017

The forecasters have revised downward their projections for headline CPI and PCE inflation over the next three quarters in 2017. The forecasters expect current-quarter headline CPI inflation to average 1.6 percent, lower than the last survey’s estimate of 2.3 percent. Similarly, the forecasters predict current-quarter headline PCE inflation of 1.2 percent, also lower than the 2.0 percent predicted three months ago.

Measured on a fourth-quarter over fourth-quarter basis, headline CPI inflation is expected to average about 2.3 percent in each of the next three years, little changed from the last survey. The forecasters have revised downward their projections for headline PCE inflation in 2017 to 1.8 percent, but they pegged the rates for 2018 and 2019 at 2.0 percent, unchanged from the last survey.

Over the next 10 years, 2017 to 2026, the forecasters expect headline CPI inflation to average 2.30 percent at an annual rate, unchanged from the last survey. The corresponding estimate for 10-year annual-average headline PCE inflation is 2.09 percent, little changed from the 2.10 percent predicted in the previous survey.

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
2017:Q2
2.3
1.6
2.2
1.9
2.0
1.2
1.9
1.7
2017:Q3
2.3
2.2
2.1
2.2
2.0
1.9
1.9
1.9
2017:Q4
2.5
2.3
2.2
2.2
2.1
2.0
1.9
1.9
2018:Q1
2.4
2.4
2.3
2.3
2.1
2.1
2.0
1.9
2018:Q2
N.A.
2.2
N.A.
2.2
N.A.
2.0
N.A.
2.0
 
Q4/Q4 Annual Averages
2017
2.4
2.3
2.2
2.2
2.0
1.8
1.9
1.9
2018
2.3
2.3
2.3
2.3
2.0
2.0
2.0
2.0
2019
2.3
2.4
2.2
2.4
2.0
2.0
2.0
2.0
 
Long-Term Annual Averages
2017-2021
2.30
2.35
N.A.
N.A.
2.03
2.06
N.A.
N.A.
2017-2026
2.30
2.30
N.A.
N.A.
2.10
2.09
N.A.
N.A.

The charts below show the median projections (the 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 shows an unchanged level of the long-term projection for CPI inflation, at 2.30 percent. The bottom panel depicts the little changed 10-year forecast for PCE inflation, at 2.09 percent.

The figures below show the probabilities that the forecasters are assigning to the possibility that fourth-quarter over fourth-quarter core PCE inflation in 2017 and 2018 will fall into each of 10 ranges. For both years, the forecasters have increased the probability that core PCE inflation will be between 1.5 percent to 1.9 percent, compared with their estimates in the survey of three months ago.

Low and Reduced Risk of a Negative Quarter

The forecasters see a lower chance of a contraction in real GDP in any of the next four quarters. For the current quarter, the forecasters predict an 8.4 percent chance of negative growth, down from 11.2 percent in the last survey.

Risk of a Negative Quarter (%)
Survey Means
Quarterly data: Previous New
2017:Q2
11.2
8.4
2017:Q3
14.6
10.9
2017:Q4
16.2
14.0
2018:Q1
17.7
17.1
2018:Q2
N.A.
17.2

 

Technical Notes

Moody's Aaa and Baa Historical Rates

The historical values of Moody's Aaa and Baa rates are proprietary and, therefore, not available in the data files on the Bank’s website or on the tables that accompany the survey’s complete write-up in the PDF.

New File Format

On May 12, 2017, the survey’s data files on the Bank’s website were changed to a .xlsx extension instead of .xls.

 

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, Owen Nie, and Aditi Thapar, RSQE, University of Michigan; Michael R. Englund, Action Economics, LLC; J.D. Foster, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Michael Gapen, Barclays Capital; Sacha Gelfer, Bentley University; 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, Jones Lang LaSalle; Jack Kleinhenz, Kleinhenz & Associates, Inc.; Thomas Lam; 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; Arun Raha and Maira Trimble, Eaton Corporation; Philip Rothman, East Carolina University; Chris Rupkey, MUFG Union Bank; John Silvia, Wells Fargo; 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; Ellen Zentner, Morgan Stanley.

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

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Second Quarter 2017 PDF

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Tom Stark
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
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