A survey by the National Association of Business Economics, released on Thursday, found that economists expect, on average, growth of 3 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter. (Agencies)
That's down from 3.5 percent in a June survey. Growth in 2014 as a whole will be just 1.6 percent, they project, sharply below a previous forecast of 2.5 percent.
The lower 2014 forecast largely reflects the impact of a sharp contraction in the first quarter. The economy shrank 2.9 percent at an annual rate, the biggest drop in five years.
That decline will weigh heavily on the economy this year, even if growth resumes and stays at 3 percent or above, as most economists expect.
The economists reduced their second-quarter forecast largely because they expect consumers spent at a much more modest pace. They now expect spending will grow just 2.3 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter, down from a 2.9 percent estimate in June.
Spending rose just 1 percent in the first quarter, the smallest increase in four years, a sign consumers are still reluctant to spend freely.
The NABE did a special survey after the government announced the dismal figures at the end of June. The group typically surveys economists quarterly.
Despite the downgrades, the survey underscores that economists are mostly optimistic about the rest of this year.
Analysts largely blame the first-quarter shrinkage on temporary factors, such as harsh winter weather and a sharp slowdown in inventory restocking. When companies restock their inventories at a weaker pace, it slows demand for factory goods and lowers production.
Jack Kleinhenz, president of the association and chief economist at the National Retail Federation, said that most other recent economic data, particularly regarding hiring, has been positive.
Employers have added an average of 2, 30,000 jobs a month this year, one of the best stretches since the recession.
A survey by the National Association of Business Economics, released on Thursday, found that economists expect, on average, growth of 3 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter.