By RYAN DUNN
An economist told a Findlay audience Thursday he is “wildly optimistic” about the national economy and predicted a substantially faster rate of growth.
The recovery has been slow in the years since the Great Recession, said Bob Morgan, managing director for Austin Associates, Toledo.
The country’s gross domestic product has grown at about half its typical rate following other recessions, Morgan said.
“The pace of this recovery has been significantly slower and less than any recovery that we’ve seen post-World War II,” he said.
Much of the economy is held back by a slowing of personal consumption purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy, he said.
But Morgan said he expects the economy’s growth rate to double from 2013 to this year.
There is a pent-up demand for purchases, a large amount of personal savings, growth in jobs, and a shift away from deflation, he said.
Consumers overall are experiencing a “wealth effect” from housing and stock market increases. That encourages purchases, he said.
“We have a lot of people who want to go out and buy some things,” he said.
A home purchase seems like a smart investment if prices continue rising, he said.
“What stops people from buying a house is the outlook of the value, or price, of the house going forward,” Morgan said.
Morgan also predicted a significant decline in the country’s trade deficit.
The United States may be a net exporter of oil in the next five to seven years because of increased energy efficiency, he said.
An aging population will also increase retirements. About 10,000 are expected per day this year, he said.
“The biggest single asset most people own in their lives is their home. And if the value of that home is starting to go up in price, people start to feel more wealthy, more secure, and are ready to retire,” Morgan said.
Widespread retirements will shrink the labor force and drive down the unemployment rate, he said.
Morgan said he would not be surprised to see the unemployment rate fall to less than 5 percent by the end of this year and to about 3 percent over the next couple years.
The government’s jobless figure should be ignored, however, he said. It is calculated by randomly calling 60,000 households each month to check if the occupants are looking for work, Morgan said.
“I have never found anybody … who’s said they’ve got that call,” he said.
Morgan offered his predictions during an Economic Outlook for 2014 forum, presented by First Federal Bank and the Findlay-Hancock County Alliance.