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The Conference Board Economic Forecast for the US Economy

Updated July 8, 2020

With first quarter 2020 GDP down to -5.0 percent (annualized) over the last quarter of 2019 the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) recently declared that the US economy officially entered recession in February. Given the timing of COVID-19 pandemic and the ‘lockdown’ seen around the country, however, we expect to see a much deeper contraction in Q2 with the worst pain concentrated in April.

May and June, fortunately, showed a solid rebound as the economy began to come back online. However, recent spikes in cases in various parts of the country are a cause for concern as they delay further reopening and may result in new lockdowns in various states. Presently, under our baseline scenario, we do not expect a large second wave of cases to sweep the country in the autumn, but do expect weak consumer demand due to persistently high unemployment and the expiration of various government stimulus programs.

The Conference Board currently has three recovery scenarios for the US economy. Our base case forecast, which we call the ‘Double Dip’, includes a second quarter GDP contraction of nearly 40 percent (annualized). This large drop is driven by a fall in consumer spending of nearly 40 percent, a drop in real capital spending of just over 30 percent, and a fall in exports of more than 50 percent (all annualized). Following a large rebound of over 20 percent in Q3, we expect growth to slow to around 1 percent in Q4 which will bring the December 2020 level of economic output to about 93 percent of what it was a year earlier.

Based on our updated forecast, US GDP will contract by 7 percent for 2020 on the whole. However, upside and downside risks for the economic recovery remain. In the event that COVID-19 is rapidly brought under control, unemployment could ease further, and consumer confidence could rise, resulting in a stronger ‘Swoosh’-shaped recovery which brings the economy back to pre COVID-19 levels of output by the end of 2021. On the other hand, a large second wave of COVID-19 cases in the autumn that results in widespread economic lockdowns could yield a weaker ‘W’-shaped recovery that would hurt fourth quarter growth and extend this economic crisis into 2021.

The US Economic Forecast

Percentage change, seasonally adjusted annual rates (except where noted)


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