But don't expect much of a consensus, at least among the 52 economists surveyed by the WSJ in the last few days. As a group, they say there's a 36 percent probability of the U.S. falling into a recession over the next 12 months. That's up from 28 percent when they were last surveyed a month earlier. The gloomy employment news and the credit crunch are at least partly to blame, of course, but get this: The probabilities among those 52 ranged from 5 percent to 90 percent. Ed Leamer at UCLA's Anderson Forecast puts it at 40 percent. The latest Anderson projections, just out today, expect growth to hover just above 1 percent by early next year - so sluggish that it wouldn't take much to tip the economy into a recession.
WSJ's global economics editor David Wessel says results of the survey show a broad range of opinion on the U.S. economic forecast. The economists' most likely case is for substantially slower growth. On average, they project fourth-quarter gross domestic product to rise at a 1.9% annual rate, well below the 2.5% they estimated a month earlier. Growth in the first quarter of 2008 is seen at 2.1%, down from an earlier average estimate of 2.6%.