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Coronavirus fallout will haunt US economy for years, costing it $8 trillion through 2030, CBO says

President Trump joined industry executives in Washington on Friday to discuss reopening the US economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
President Trump joined industry executives in Washington on Friday to discuss reopening the US economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will shrink the size of the US economy by roughly $8 trillion over the next decade, according to new projections released by the Congressional Budget Office on Monday.

In a letter to US lawmakers, the CBO said the US economy will grow by $7.9 trillion less from 2020 to 2030 than it had projected in January. That amounts to a 3 percent decline in US gross domestic product compared with its initial estimate.

The stark illustration of the pandemic’s potential economic impact comes one week after White House officials confirmed that they would not release their own updated projections this summer in their annual “mid-session” budget review.

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The pandemic will hamper US economic growth by reducing the amount of consumer spending and closing numerous businesses, the CBO said. Part of the impact will be mitigated by the more than $2 trillion the federal government has already approved in emergency spending for households and businesses.

“Business closures and social distancing measures are expected to curtail consumer spending, while the recent drop in energy prices is projected to severely reduce US investment in the energy sector,” said Phillip Swagel, the CBO director and former economic expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank.

The pandemic’s impact on the US economy has been swift. The unemployment rate jumped from 3.5 percent in February to 14.7 percent in April. Tax revenues plummeted, government spending skyrocketed, and the economy quickly contracted after years of growth.

The CBO report was requested by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, who serves on the Senate Budget Committee. The CBO had previously released forecasts for 2020 and 2021.

“Slower growth means higher unemployment, lower wages, and less income for people. What we are looking at is another decade of that,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at UpWork.

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The White House said last week that it would not be releasing its updated economic projections, such as GDP and unemployment statistics, because of the high level of volatility in the US economy. The CBO and other economic analysts have done so.

The CBO’s letter says “real” GDP will fall by about $8 trillion, but “nominal” GDP will fall by $16 trillion over the next 10 years. That measure is viewed by economists as less significant because it does not include the impact of inflation.

Lawmakers are debating whether to renew several federal aid programs set to expire, including a sizable increase in unemployment benefits that will lapse at the end of July. Congressional Democrats seized on the CBO’s findings say additional emergency aid is needed.