Survey of economists: Recovery will take years

Overall, the researchers predicted that although the economy will probably start to improve in the second half of this year, there won’t be a quick rally from this recession. “The panelists believe, on the whole, that the recovery from this crisis is going to be a very, very lengthy process,” Timmermann said. “We’re going to be seeing serious effects for years and years.”

Our sample of economists thought it was more likely than not — with an average probability of 54 percent — that the next quarter to see positive real GDP growth in the U.S. (relative to the previous quarter) would be the third quarter of 2020. But that’s probably a low bar to clear; the economy shrunk by 4.8 percent in the first quarter and is likely to contract even more in the second quarter. And there’s a significant chance that the contractions could continue further into the future: The forecasters we polled thought there was a 23 percent chance that the economy would not grow again until the fourth quarter of 2020 and a 22 percent chance that it wouldn’t grow until the first quarter of 2021 or later.

“The economy almost has to grow [in the third quarter] because we’ll be starting from such a low base,” Wright said. “Unless, of course, things seem to be looking good right now and then in July or August there’s another wave and we go straight back to lockdown. Then you could have another negative quarter.”