The sharp downturn in housing markets across the country, which undermined the solvency of major financial institutions and severely disrupted the functioning of financial markets, has led the United States into a recession that will probably be the longest and the deepest since World War II. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) anticipates that the recession–which began about a year ago–will last well into 2009.
Under an assumption that current laws and policies regarding federal spending and taxation remain the same, CBO forecasts the following:
• A marked contraction in the U.S. economy in calendar year 2009, with real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) falling by 2.2 percent.
• A slow recovery in 2010, with real GDP growing by only 1.5 percent.
• An unemployment rate that will exceed 9 percent early in 2010.
• A continued decline in inflation, both because energy prices have been falling and because inflation excluding energy and food prices–the core rate–tends to ease during and immediately after a recession; for 2009, CBO anticipates that inflation, as measured by the consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U), will be only 0.1 percent.
• A drop in the national average price of a home, as measured by the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s purchase-only index, of an additional 14 percent between the third quarter of 2008 and the second quarter of 2010; the imbalance between the supply of and demand for housing persists, as reflected in unusually high vacancy rates and a low volume of housing starts.
• A decrease of more than 1 percent in real consumption in 2009, followed by moderate growth in 2010; the rise in unemployment, the loss of wealth, and tight consumer credit will continue to restrain consumption– although lower commodity prices will ease those effects somewhat.
• A financial system that remains strained, although some credit markets have started to improve; it is too early to determine whether the government’s actions to date have been sufficient to put the system on a path to recovery.