OSU Economist: 2016 Economic Forecast Looks Good Despite Risks

Dec 22, 2015

By Nicole Pierron Rasul

The 2016 economic outlook looks good, says an expert in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

“We are entering our 79th month of economic expansion in the U.S., which is the fifth longest period on record,” said Mark Partridge, the C. William Swank Chair in Rural-Urban Policy in the college. “I remain optimistic on national growth.

“Back to back, 2015 and 2016 look to be the best years of the 21st century yet.”

Partridge, who specializes in analyzing regional growth patterns, spoke Dec. 7 at the kickoff to the college’s 2015-2016 Agricultural Policy and Outlook series, which is a series of local meetings held statewide through January. Dates and times for the meetings, along with information such as policy briefs and presentation files from each of the presenters can be found at go.osu.edu/2016outlook.

The meetings feature presentations by experts from the college’s Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics who discuss issues that the food and agricultural community should expect this year, including policy changes and market behavior with respect to farm, food and energy resources, and the environment.

The meetings are open to the public. A meal is provided with each meeting and is included in the registration cost.

Additionally, a new offering this year is a webinar to enable participants to join remotely from their home or office. The webinar, which costs $10, will be held on Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. Register by Jan. 25 at regonline.com/AgOutlook2016.

Partridge said the U.S. stands out among advanced economies as one of the most consistent in the past few years in regard to economic growth.

“As of the October employment report released in November, 2015 U.S. job growth is on track to be good by post-2000 standards, but not as good as 2014, which was the best since 1999,” he said.

However, Partridge noted that though 2016 looks to be another good year, there are numerous risks that could easily slow growth. Some of the risks, he said, include the stalled U.S. Congress, which does not currently have agreement to enact any kind of fiscal policy for the country.

“Additionally, policy institutions such as the International Monetary Fund have also highlighted the need for the U.S. to make large investments in infrastructure as a long-term growth strategy, which is not currently underway,” Partridge said. “These same institutions have also raised the alarm on the possible impact of climate change and the risks of not investing in climate change management strategies.”

Finally, with growth in China slowing down, there is a broader trade slowdown on the horizon, which will impact the global economy, he said.

“Ohio is trailing the U.S. as it historically does, but 2015 was a good year, and the state seems poised to prosper in 2016,” Partridge said.

Statewide, manufacturing is growing at three times the national rate, he said.

“Ohio’s main weakness is stagnant population growth. We lose young and more-educated workers,” Partridge said. “This is the key reason for why the state’s job growth lags the nation, however it explains Ohio’s low unemployment rate.“

Partridge also highlighted some surprising trends that reflect the larger economic picture.

“Today, 25 percent of young adults live with their parents,” he said. “This is a big change in recent years. In 1980, this figure was only 5 percent.

“These young people are also not married, either, which again is a major shift. Data shows that married men tend to be much more productive. These unmarried young adults are also choosing not to buy houses, they are instead living in apartments.”