The U.S. economy will grow a modest 2.4 percent this year, with unemployment steady and consumer spending subdued, an economic survey released Monday indicated.
The gross domestic product growth-rate forecast by the National Association of Business Economics is 0.1 percent less than the U.S. Federal Reserve's 2.5 percent forecast released a month ago.
Real gross domestic product -- the total value of goods and services produced by labor and property in the United States, adjusted for inflation -- grew an annual 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter last year and 1.8 percent in the third quarter, the U.S. Commerce Department said last month.
Economists say in a normal economy, roughly 3 percent growth is a healthy figure -- enough to keep unemployment down but not enough to ignite inflation.
The U.S. GDP's average quarterly growth was historically 3.28 percent from 1947 until 2011, reaching a high of 17.2 percent in March 1950 and a low of negative 10.4 percent in March 1958.
Looking at other yardsticks, the association's outlook panel of 45 business economists and policymakers said the jobless rate average this year would hew to the latest U.S. Labor Department figure of 8.3 percent.
The U.S. jobless rate fell 0.2 percent in January -- to its lowest rate since February 2009 -- from 8.5 percent in December. The rate was 9.1 percent in January 2011, 9 percent in February 2011 and 8.9 percent the following month.
Association forecasters said they expected stronger job growth in 2013 than in 2012, with the unemployment rate falling to 7.8 percent.
Consumer spending is expected to be a subdued 2.1 percent this year and 2.3 percent in 2013, the group's panelists forecast.
Inflation-adjusted consumer spending rose 2.2 percent last year, slightly better than 2010's increase.
Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
Auto and other light-vehicle sales are anticipated to grow at what the association called a "solid" 14 million units this year and 14.6 million units in 2013, up from 12.7 million units in 2011.
Auto industry-research company TrueCar.com forecast the same amount of sales this year in a report Friday, citing improved consumer demand and loosened credit availability.
U.S. housing starts are expected to increase 19 percent to 700,000 units in 2012 and to reach 850,000 units next year, NABE said.
Industrial production is expected to increase moderately at 3.5 percent this year and 3.3 percent in 2013.
NABE's export-growth forecast fell to 4.6 percent for the year, down from November 2011's forecast of 6.1 percent growth for the year. Import growth was also lowered to 3.5 percent from 4.3 percent, NABE said, predicting 2013's exports and imports would grow 7 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively.
The U.S. deficit is expected to shrink to $876 billion next year from a projected $1.1 trillion this year, the group said.
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