When times are tough, one thing that tends to raise the spirits is knowing that somebody else has it worse. And as wretched as the U.S. economy seems, it's not as bad as in other regions.
The International Monetary Fund's latest tally of world economic conditions forecasts a 2.6 decline in U.S. economic output for all of 2009, and anemic growth of 0.8 percent in 2010. That's more optimistic than the IMF's prediction from three months ago, but those are still lousy numbers. A weak economy throughout 2010 would mean a bleak employment picture, an agonizingly slow housing recovery, and another year or two likely to feel like a recession, whether it's technically labeled that or not.
We should count ourselves lucky, though. The IMF expects at least 11 major parts of the world to have more severe economic contractions than the United State this year, including most of western Europe, Japan, Russia, and Mexico. Europe will still be stumbling along behind the United States next year, as well. Here are the IMF's projections for economic growth in various parts of the world:
If these projections come true, it means the United States, despite its overspent consumers, wrecked banks, and insolvent automakers, will be leading the world economy out of recession. Somehow. The developing world will help, but those high growth projections in China and India can be deceiving. China in particular has government policies that practically mandate high growth, and 8.5 percent in 2010 would be just about the bare minimum to keep employment at tolerable levels. And neither China nor India is a major buyer of American-made goods and services; for the most part, it's the other way around. With much of the developed world trailing the United States, it will take American consumers to ratchet up demand for the world's products. Scary thought.
The IMF does offer a bit of more heartening news: The global wipeout finally seems to be receding. "The world economy is stabilizing," the IMF reports. Its global economic growth projection of 2.5 percent in 2010 is 0.6 points higher than predicted in April. But the global economy isn't expected to gain its footing in earnest until the second half of 2010. Maybe by then American spenders will have come out of hiding.