CBO Predicts $1.5 Trillion Deficit for 2011

Katie Pavlich
Posted: Aug 24, 2011 10:19 AM

The Congressional Budget Office is predicting a $1.5 trillion deficit for 2011, the third largest deficit in 65 years.

For 2011, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that if current laws remain unchanged, the federal budget will show a deficit of close to $1.5 trillion, or 9.8 percent of GDP. The deficits in CBO's baseline projections drop markedly over the next few years as a share of output and average 3.1 percent of GDP from 2014 to 2021. Those projections, however, are based on the assumption that tax and spending policies unfold as specified in current law. Consequently, they understate the budget deficits that would occur if many policies currently in place were continued, rather than allowed to expire as scheduled under current law.

In addition, the CBO's economic outlook is grim and shows the recent debt ceiling deal to cut $1 trillion is indeed a "spit in the ocean":

Although recent actions by U.S. policymakers should help support further gains in real (inflation-adjusted) GDP in 2011, production and employment are likely to stay well below the economy's potential for a number of years. CBO expects that economic growth will remain moderate this year and next. As measured by the change from the fourth quarter of the previous year, real GDP is projected to increase by 3.1 percent this year and by 2.8 percent next year. That forecast reflects CBO's expectation of continued strong growth in business investment, improvements in both residential investment and net exports, and modest increases in consumer spending. It also includes the impact of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (referred to in this report as the 2010 tax act), enacted in December, which provides a short-term boost to the economy by reducing some taxes, extending unemployment benefits, and delaying an increase in taxes that would otherwise have occurred in 2011. CBO projects that inflation will remain very low in 2011 and 2012, reflecting the large amount of unused resources in the economy, and will average no more than 2.0 percent a year between 2013 and 2016.

The recovery in employment has been slowed not only by the moderate growth in output in the past year and a half but also by structural changes in the labor market, such as a mismatch between the requirements of available jobs and the skills of job seekers, that have hindered the reemployment of workers who have lost their job. Payroll employment, which declined by 7.3 million during the recent recession, gained a mere 70,000 jobs (or 0.06 percent), on net, between June 2009 and December 2010. (By contrast, in the first 18 months of past recoveries, employment rose by an average of 4.4 percent.) Consequently, the rate of unemployment has fallen by only a small amount: After climbing to 10.1 percent of the labor force during 2009, the unemployment rate declined only to 9.4 percent by December 2010. Other measures of labor market conditions suggest even more slack than does the unemployment rate. For example, almost 9 million workers who have wanted full-time work in the past two years have been employed only part time.

Today is day 847 since Senate Democrats passed a budget.