Can Obama’s jobs plan prevent 2012 recession?
President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan would help avoid a return to recession by maintaining growth and pushing down the unemployment rate next year, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
The legislation, submitted to Congress this month, would increase gross domestic product by 0.6 percent next year and add or keep 275,000 workers on payrolls, the median estimates in the survey of 34 economists showed. The program would also lower the jobless rate by 0.2 percentage point in 2012, economists said.
Economists in the survey are less optimistic than Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who has cited estimates for a 1.5 percent boost to gross domestic product. Even so, the program may bolster Obama’s re-election prospects by lowering a jobless rate that has stayed near 9 percent or more since April 2009.
The plan “prevents a contraction of the economy in the first quarter” of next year, said John Herrmann, a senior fixed-income strategist at State Street Global Markets LLC in Boston, who participated in the survey. “It leads to more retention of workers than net new hires.”
Some 13,000 jobs would be created in 2013, bringing the total to 288,000 over two years, according to the survey. Employers in the U.S. added 1.26 million workers in the past 12 months, Labor Department data show.
Obama’s plan, announced on Sept. 8, calls for cutting the payroll taxes paid by workers and small businesses while extending unemployment insurance. It also includes an increase in infrastructure spending and more aid for cash-strapped state governments.
“The important thing to consider is: What happens if we don’t do anything?” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida. He said the program “very well could” forestall a recession in early 2012.
“Most of all, it prevents a serious drag on the economy next year” from current programs expiring, said Brown, who estimates the Obama plan would add 0.5 percent to GDP in 2012.
A reduction in government spending, the end of the payroll- tax holiday and an expiration of extended unemployment benefits would cut GDP by 1.7 percent in 2012, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief U.S. economist Michael Feroli in New York. Instead, the Obama proposal makes up for that potential loss and may add a net 0.1 percent to the economy, he estimates.
Tax cuts account for more than half the dollar value of the Obama plan, which also includes $105 billion in spending for school modernization, transportation projects and rehabilitation of vacant properties, according to a White House fact sheet. The proposal includes $35 billion in direct aid to state and local governments to stem dismissals of educators and emergency personnel.
“Some of this is just extending support that was already in place,” said Julia Coronado, chief economist for North America at BNP Paribas in New York. “The actual jobs programs themselves, I don’t think that they’re a game-changer.”