Economists: U.S. unlikely to see a recession in 2019; firms still struggle to find skilled workers

The new year brought with it more than a little political and economic uncertainty, punctuated by stock market volatility. That brings us, again, to the old joke about stock markets and recession predictions.

The stock market has predicted nine of the past five recessions—a joke from master Keynesian of decades ago Paul Samuelson. Samuelson’s great rival on the supply-side, Wall Street Journal editorial maestro Robert L. Bartley completed the thought, when he quipped, and in the other four, Washington got the message and mended its ways in time.

We’re not all that confident about the decision makers in the other Washington right now, but we’ll take good news where we find it. And here’s some

A survey by the National Association for Business Economics finds that nearly two-thirds of respondents think the economy will keep growing this year in what would become the longest expansion on record in U.S. history at more than 10 years.

Yet,

Still, the survey results being released Monday reflect a collective belief that some of the economy’s momentum is fading.

Here’s a link to the public summary, which contains this familiar theme

• More than half of survey respondents (53%) report shortages of skilled labor at their firms. This is an increase from the 47% in October, and the highest percentage since October 2000.

• Roughly two-fifths (41%) of respondents report their firms have either no difficulties hiring experienced workers (22%) or no open positions (19%), percentages that have held steady since the October survey.

• For respondents reporting difficulties in hiring, the positions that are most difficult to staff are high-skill positions—cited by 74% of respondents. This is followed by difficulty filling mid-skill positions, cited by 52% of respondents. Only 27% of respondents report difficulty filling low-skill positions.

For us, two takeaways from the NABE report:

  1. Lawmakers should exercise fiscal restraint in drafting the 2019 budget; the economy does show signs of slowing and the run of over performing revenue collections cannot continue indefinitely.
  2. Boosting postsecondary credential attainment is the key to filling the high-skill positions most in demand by employers.

While the NABE survey contains good news, it is tempered by the notes of caution.