Summary: Experts have a wide range of forecasts for America’s economy. Rapid growth, leading to the singularity. Slow growth, the muddle-through economy. An no growth. Each of these poses different challenges for America. All of these look plausible. Here we look at the darkest of three these scenarios, sketched out by Jeremy Grantham. At the end are links to more information.
Excerpt from “On the Road to Zero Growth”
By Jeremy Grantham
GMO Quarterly Letter, November 2012
Summary of the forecast
The U.S. GDP growth rate that we have become accustomed to for over a hundred years – in excess of 3% a year – is not just hiding behind temporary setbacks. It is gone forever. Yet most business people (and the Fed) assume that economic growth will recover to its old rates.
Going forward, GDP growth (conventionally measured) for the U.S. is likely to be about only 1.4% a year, and adjusted growth about 0.9%.
Population growth that peaked in the U.S. at over 1.5% a year in the 1970s will bob along at less than half a percent. This is pretty much baked into the demographic pie. After adjusting for fewer hours worked per person, man-hours worked annually are likely to be growing at only 0.2% a year.
Productivity in manufacturing has been high and is expected to stay high, but manufacturing is now only 9% of the U.S. economy, down from 24% in 1900 and 15% in 1990. It is on its way to only 5% by 2040 or so. There is a limit as to how much this small segment can add to total productivity.