February 18, 2009
WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve on Wednesday sharply downgraded its projections for the country’s economic performance this year, predicting the economy will actually shrink and unemployment will rise higher.
Under the new projections, the unemployment rate will rise to between 8.5 and 8.8 percent this year. The old forecasts, issued in mid-November, predicted the jobless rate would rise to between 7.1 and 7.6 percent.
The Fed also believes the economy will contract this year between 0.5 and 1.3 percent. The old forecast said the economy could shrink by 0.2 percent or expand by 1.1 percent.
The last time the economy registered a contraction for a full year was in 1991, by 0.2 percent. If the Fed’s new predictions prove correct, it would mark the weakest showing since a 1.9 percent drop in 1982, when the country had suffered through a severe recession.
The bleaker outlook represents the growing toll of the worst housing, credit and financial crises since the 1930s. All of those negative forces have plunged the nation into a recession, now in its second year.