Feb 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

CBO projects economic growth will return to pre-pandemic level this year

U.S. GDP will return to its pre-coronavirus level by mid-2021 — a quicker than expected recovery from the economy's pandemic free-fall, according to new projections by the Congressional Budget office.

Why it matters: The latest estimates from the nonpartisan office paint a rosier — though still not great — path for the U.S. economy.

Data: Congressional Budget Office; Note: Inflation (PCE price index) and GDP estimates show percent change from prior year, Unemployment shows estimated fourth-quarter level; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Congressional Budget Office; Note: Inflation (PCE price index) and GDP estimates show percent change from prior year, Unemployment shows estimated fourth-quarter level; Chart: Axios Visuals

Details: The unemployment rate is estimated to hit 5.3% by year-end — versus the 7.6% the CBO estimated in July. (As of December, the unemployment rate was 6.7%.)

  • Longer-term, the CBO projects that the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge will average 1.9% between 2024 and 2031 — slightly below the Fed's 2% inflation target.
  • By a different gauge, the CBO sees inflation averaging 2.2% within that timeframe.

Yes, but: It will still be another three years before there are as many employed Americans as there were before the pandemic hit.

Between the lines: The projections don't factor in the stimulus measures proposed by the Biden White House — and there are questions about whether these rosy forecasts could hurt the administration's case for additional stimulus.

  • The CBO said the $900 billion relief bill signed into law in December would boost the level of real GDP by 1.5% this year and next — though the bulk of the impact will happen in 2021.
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