The ongoing housing correction and the volatility and uncertainty in the credit markets are significant near-term drags on the economy and I expect growth in the first half of the year to be quite weak, around 1 percent. As conditions in the housing and financial markets begin to stabilize, I expect growth to improve in the second half of the year and to move back to trend, which I estimate is around 2.7 percent, in 2009. Overall, I am now anticipating economic growth in 2008 of near 2 percent.
Given the slowdown in economic growth this year, payroll employment will rise more slowly than last year and will remain below trend for much of the year before picking up in 2009. Slower job growth will also lead to an unemployment rate near 5-1/4 percent in 2008, after fluctuating between 4‑1/2 and 5 percent in 2007.