By Shobhana Chandra and Timothy R. Homan
WASHINGTON - Employment will improve more this year than economists previously estimated, helping the world’s largest economy to keep growing, a private survey showed.
Payrolls will rise 170,000 a month on average in 2012, up from a November projection of 127,000, according to the results of a survey by the National Association for Business Economics issued Monday in Washington. Unemployment will average 8.3 percent, down from 8.9 percent in the prior forecast.
The better outlook for jobs coincides with larger gains in business investment and homebuilding than were anticipated, the survey showed. At the same time, economists maintained forecasts for consumer spending, which may rise 2.1 percent, and predicted economic growth of 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, unchanged from the November survey.
Respondents “are seeing strength in a number of economic measures,” Gene Huang, NABE president and chief economist at FedEx Corp., said in a statement. “Forecast uncertainty among the economists appears to have diminished slightly over the last several months,” while they “remain guarded on U.S. economic growth,” he said.
Three straight months of faster job growth are helping to sustain the economic expansion that began in June 2009. Employers added 243,000 jobs in January, the most in nine months, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent, the lowest since February 2009, according to the Labor Department.
Estimates for 2012 spending on new equipment and software rose to 8.1 percent from 8 percent, today’s NABE report said. Economists in the latest survey predicted housing starts will climb to 700,000, compared with a November forecast of 660,000.
The job market may accelerate more next year, the survey showed. Monthly payroll gains are forecast to average 183,000 in 2013, and the unemployment rate may drop to 7.8 percent.
Inflation is likely to stay contained even as the economy expands. The cost of living index will rise 2.1 percent, less than the 2.2 percent annual average increase projected in the November survey.
Forty-five NABE members responded to the survey, conducted between Jan. 26 and Feb. 8. The National Association for Business Economics, founded in 1959, is the professional organization for people who use economics in their work.