ATLANTA – The head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Monday said a U.S. economic recovery may not arrive for another six months, in contrast to some optimistic private economists who believe one may be already under way.
Atlanta Fed President Jack Guynn told a local Rotary Club that the "adjustments" the economy has been undergoing since late 2000 will have worked themselves out by around the middle of this year.
"While that probably means we'll see negative GDP (gross domestic product) numbers for another quarter or two, I think growth for the last two quarters of the year will be around 3 percent at an annualized rate," he said in prepared remarks.
The necessary adjustments included hefty cost-cutting by businesses in the aftermath of a huge boom in investment spending during the late 1990s, as well as an overhang of inventories that business are still working down.
"I see no reason to disagree with most forecasters who predict the adjustment process will begin to wrap up by mid-year and that the conditions for profitability -- and therefore growth -- will have been re-established," Guynn said.
The decade-long U.S. economic expansion gave way to a recession in March after a slowdown that began midway through 2000.
With a spate of more upbeat data emerging in recent weeks, some private economists have begun to speculate that the recession will likely end soon or may have already ended.
Guynn said that the U.S. unemployment rate, which hit a six-year high of 5.8 percent in December, will probably climb further before it starts heading back down later in the year.
"Inflation, though, should remain in check in 2002 with continued rising service costs offset to some extent by stable goods prices," he said.
Summing up the U.S. economy's performance in 2001, Guynn said it probably recorded no growth at all for the year.
The Commerce Department has published figures for U.S. GDP through the third quarter but won't report the fourth-quarter data until the end of this month.
GDP grew 1.3 percent in the first quarter of 2001 and 0.3 percent in the second quarter but it fell by 1.3 percent in the third quarter.