While the current economic forecast is considered less dismal than in past months, the Federal Reserve released a forecast this week predicting unemployment will stay high over the next two years—noting that recession-scarred employers are likely to stay conservative in their hiring practices even as recession-scarred citizens continue their search for a dwindling number of jobs.
According to The Huffington Post, in the Fed’s late January meeting, the central banking system left rates at a record low—near zero—“to help nurture the recovery and drive down unemployment. And it pledged to hold rates at ‘exceptionally low’ levels for an ‘extended period.’ Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, in remarks last week, suggested the Fed is still months away from raising rates and draining money out of the financial system. The recovery is still fragile and unemployment, now at 9.7 percent, is high. In its economic forecast, Fed policymakers said it will take "some time" for the economy and the jobs market to get back to normal. They did not spell out how long that would be. Previously, they suggested it could take five or six years for economic conditions to return to full health. A ‘sizable minority,’ though, said they thought it could take more than five or six years for the economy and the job market to return to normal. The Fed said the unemployment rate this year could hover between 9.5 percent and 9.7 percent and between 8.2 percent and 8.5 percent next year. By 2012, the rate will range between 6.6 percent and 7.5 percent, it predicted.”
These forecasts have apparently changed very little from the projections released by the Fed towards the end of 2009. However, what is noteworthy is the fact that these numbers suggest unemployment will remain higher than normal unemployment rates (between 5.5 percent and 6 percent) just as the country heads into this year's midterm congressional elections and the 2012 presidential election. Unless things change dramatically soon, this is bad news for incumbent members of Congress, and possibly the current administration, and bodes well for newcomers to the political scene willing to challenge their tenured counterparts on “The Economy, stupid.”
As the Huff Post reports, “Fed policymakers ‘expect that the pace of the economic recovery will be restrained by household and business uncertainty, only gradual improvement in labor market conditions and a slow easing of credit conditions in the banking sector,’ according to the forecast.
Against that backdrop, the Fed expects the economy will grow between 2.8 percent and 3.5 percent this year. Growth will pick up to between 3.4 percent and 4.5 percent next year and log similar growth in 2012. The economy would need to grow by at least 5 percent a year to make a dent in the unemployment rate, analysts say.”
Further forecasts into the Fed's view of (and moves in) the current “up and down” economy, as well as its strategy for curtailing stimulus money, will likely come at next week’s House Financial Services Committee hearing. Wednesday’s meeting will feature Chairman Bernanke delivering the Fed's twice-a-year economic report to Congress—a report that will likely show growth, just not enough for the millions of unemployed Americans.
Every week bankruptcy attorneys continue to meet with dozens of people in financial distress due to these very employment woes. In each case, these same unemployed people, having heard no signs of relief from the government, come into law offices feeling hopeless and at the end of their rope, perceiving no alternatives to their continuing fiscal problems. Almost every time, however, it seems when these same clients leave these offices, they finally feel some sense of relief for the first time since the job recession started; they are reassured that the bankruptcy laws and the bankruptcy system offers them the possibility of a new start—at an affordable cost—and with it a financially viable and secure future. In short, bankruptcy relief ends worry and stress for many jobless Americans living on the financial brink.
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