On Thursday, May 26, we'll be hosting our regular monthly wrap-up of economic and market events. You can sign up at this link.
So why aren’t we seeing another productivity boom? The difference between now and the last tech boom is that, in the mid-1990s, businesses throughout the economy used those new technologies to change how and what they produced. They became much more efficient and spread their reach. In the more recent tech boom, a lot of the innovation and new products are directed at our leisure time, which may enrich our lives, but doesn’t have the same groundbreaking effect on how businesses operate.
US economic growth remains sluggish, hinting at the possibility that a new recession may be near. But the numbers don’t align with a pessimistic intuition. The probability is extremely low that April marked the start of an NBER-defined downturn, based on published reports to date. Projecting a broad set of indicators into the near-term future suggests that the US will continue to sidestep a macro slump. Yes, the outlook could deteriorate if the incoming numbers stumble. But for the moment, recession risk remains low.
In fact, the prospects look encouraging for a modest rebound in economic activity in the second quarter, based on the Atlanta Fed’s latest nowcast. Although yesterday’s GDPNow estimate ticked down to a projected 2.5% increase for Q2 (as of May 17), that’s still a solid bounce higher from Q1’s tepid 0.5% advance. Forecasts aren’t written in stone, but the current forecast offers support for expecting some degree of improvement in output after a disappointing Q1.