America’s Economic Crossroads: What Lies Ahead
The U.S. economy is currently navigating a convergence of potential challenges that could introduce instability.
These include a broader auto workers strike, a prolonged government shutdown, the resumption of student loan repayments, and escalating oil prices. While each issue on its own might not be too damaging, their combined impact could exacerbate the economy’s cooling due to elevated interest rates.
Chief economist Gregory Daco termed this combination of threats a “quadruple threat” that could disrupt economic activity. Analysts expect slower economic growth in the coming months but not a recession.
Daco predicts a sharp slowdown in the fourth quarter, with growth dropping to 0.6% from an anticipated 3.5% gain in the current quarter. Goldman Sachs predicts a 1.3% growth rate in the next quarter, down from 3.1% in the third quarter.
Despite challenges, robust consumer spending and low unemployment have supported the U.S. economy in 2023. However, Europe and China have experienced significant economic slowdowns.
A looming economic threat is the potential expansion of the United Auto Workers’ strike, which could affect auto production and raise vehicle prices. A prolonged strike might modestly impact annualized economic growth.
The resumption of federal student loan payments in October could divert around $100 billion from consumers, affecting spending. While this represents a small portion of overall consumer spending, it concerns large retailers like Walmart and Target.
Rising gasoline prices add economic pressure. Brent crude oil prices have surged, leading to higher gasoline prices and persistent inflation, impacting consumer spending and prices for goods and services.
Another concern is a potential government shutdown if lawmakers fail to reach an agreement by the end of September. A similar event in 2018 had a limited economic impact.