It was February 2008, and the economic forecasters surveyed each quarter by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia were starting to worry. “The outlook for growth in the first half of 2008 looks much weaker now than it did three months ago,” the Fed wrote, summarizing the survey results. “However, the forecasters are not predicting a contraction.” Year-over-year GDP growth would be a modest 1.8% in 2008, they predicted, rising to 2.8% in 2009. Unemployment would average 5.1%.
The forecasters weren’t nearly worried enough. In reality, unemployment would hit 10% in October 2009, and GDP went negative, contracting -0.13% in 2008 and -2.5% in 2009.
Economists are not good at predicting recessions, although to be fair neither is virtually anyone else. But some forecasters are more accurate than others, and so Quartz decided to ask a group with a track record of accurately predicting economic and geopolitical events about the chances of a recession in 2020.