A majority of economists expect the U.S. to emerge from the coronavirus-induced recession — the worst downturn in nearly a century — by either late 2020 or sometime in 2021, according to a survey released Monday.
About two-thirds of economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics said they believe the economy is still in the recession that began in February. Thirty-five percent of those respondents think the recession will end in the second half of 2020, while 34% don't anticipate that happening until 2021.
But many economists think the downturn could get worse before it starts to improve: Four in five respondents said they see at least a 25% chance of a "double-dip" recession.
The survey of 235 members was conducted between late July and early August, when a resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country forced most states to pause or reverse their reopenings, igniting fears that the nation's early recovery was already stalling out. Infection rates have since declined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only 18% of economists believe the labor market will return to pre-crisis levels in 2021. Most expect the jobs recovery to take years: 41% expect payroll to regain their February level sometime in 2021, while 34% think it won't happen before 2023.
Over the past three months, the economy has added back less than half -- about 42 percent -- of the 22 million jobs it lost during the pandemic, data shows. There are still 10.6 million more out-of-work Americans than in February.
The unemployment level, at its highest in decades, is expected to remain elevated as social distancing guidelines are kept in place while states fight a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
Compounding economists' gloomy outlook on the labor market's recovery is their expectation for the nation's beleaguered businesses. Some 40% of respondents said that all business closures during the crisis will likely be permanent.
The findings come amid a high-stakes impasse between White House officials and top Democrats over another round of emergency aid.
The biggest point of contention between the two parties is the price tag: Democrats have offered to come down $1 trillion from the roughly $3 trillion HEROES Act, which the House passed in May. But the White House and Republican leaders want to keep the price tag closer to $1 trillion amid growing concerns over the nation's ballooning deficit.
A majority -- about 52% -- of economists said the ideal size for the legislation is "at least" $1.5 trillion.