If history has anything to say, the Fed has a rough road ahead as they try to tighten monetary policy enough to stem inflation and still avoid a U.S. recession. In a recent research report, Chief Economist Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs put the odds of a recession in the next 2 years at 35%, according to an article in Bloomberg.
The thin line the Fed must walk is to reduce the number of job openings without increasing unemployment, and to stem wage growth at the same rate of its goal of 2% inflation. Historically, that’s a hard thing to do; the gap between jobs and workers has only declined during recessions, a pattern that “suggest[s] the Fed faces a hard path to a soft landing,” Hatzius wrote.
But a recession isn’t a foregone conclusion, the article maintains. As the labor supply and durable goods prices continue to normalize in a post-pandemic world, that could offer a softer cushion for the Fed to land on. In fact, several Group of 10 countries have achieved that soft landing, according to Hatzius. And while there have been 14 tightening cycles since World War II in the U.S., 11 resulted in a recession within 2 years, but only 8 of them can be even partly blamed on Fed tightening, and Hatzius pointed out in his report that soft landings have become more common in recent years.
Many economists are betting on increased odds of a U.S. recession, with 27.5% predicting one on the horizon, according to a Bloomberg survey the first week in April that’s cited in the article. Those economists also expect the consumer price index to hit around 5.7% in the last quarter of 2022. Meanwhile, Hatzius puts the odds at 15% in the next 12 months and 35% in the next 24 months.