COVID-19 fallout to haunt U.S. economy, costing it $8T through 2030, CBO says

Fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is expected to shrink the size of the U.S. economy by roughly $8 trillion over the next decade, according to new projections released by the Congressional Budget Office on Monday.

In a letter to U.S. lawmakers, the CBO said the U.S. economy will grow by $7.9 trillion less from 2020 to 2030 than it had projected in January. That amounts to a 3% decline in U.S. gross domestic product compared with its initial estimate.

The stark illustration of the pandemic’s potential economic impact comes one week after White House officials confirmed that they would not release their own updated projections this summer in their annual “mid-session” budget review.

The pandemic will hamper U.S. economic growth by reducing the amount of consumer spending and closing numerous businesses, the CBO said. Part of the impact will be mitigated by the more than $2 trillion the federal government has already approved in emergency spending for households and businesses.

“Business closures and social distancing measures are expected to curtail consumer spending, while the recent drop in energy prices is projected to severely reduce U.S. investment in the energy sector,” said Phillip Swagel, the CBO director and former economic expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think-tank.

The pandemic’s impact on the U.S. economy has been swift. The unemployment rate jumped from 3.5% in February to 14.7% in April. Tax revenues plummeted, government spending skyrocketed, and the economy quickly contracted after years of growth.

The CBO report was requested by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who serves on the Senate Budget Committee. The CBO had previously released forecasts for 2020 and 2021.

“Slower growth means higher unemployment, lower wages, and less income for people. What we are looking at is another decade of that,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at UpWork.

The White House said last week that it would not be releasing its updated economic projections, such as GDP and unemployment statistics, because of the high-level of volatility in the U.S. economy. The CBO and other economic analysts have done so.

The CBO’s letter says “real” GDP will fall by about $8 trillion, but “nominal” GDP will fall by $16 trillion over the next 10 years. That measure is viewed by economists as less significant because it does not include the impact of inflation.

Lawmakers are debating whether to renew several federal aid programs set to expire, including a sizable increase in unemployment benefits that will lapse at the end of July. Congressional Democrats seized on the CBO’s findings say additional emergency aid is needed.

“In order to avoid the risk of another Great Depression, the Senate must act with a fierce sense of urgency to make sure that everyone in America has the income they need to feed their families and put a roof over their heads,” Schumer in a statement. “The American people cannot afford to wait another month for the Senate to pass legislation. They need our help now.”

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