|By Joseph Lawler; Joseph Lawler, Economic Correspondent|
The economy is positioned for stronger growth in 2014 if the private sector can match its 2013 performance, top
Speaking at a Christian Science Monitor media breakfast, Furman said that "there are a lot of things that are unpredictable, there are a lot of risks, but broadly speaking the thing that is most predictable is fiscal policy." And in 2014, the U.S. will have far fewer tax hikes and government spending cuts that Furman explained held back growth. "That's the single biggest reason to be optimistic about 2014," he noted.
Economic growth checked in at a total 1.9 percent, the
The greatest threat to an improving economy in the short run, Furman said, is high long-term unemployment. The long-term unemployment rate remains sky-high at 2.5 percent, and those out of work for 27 weeks or longer make up 40 percent of all the jobless.
The Obama administration has been pushing for a continuation of an extended unemployment insurance program that expired in December, depriving an estimated 1.6 million job-seekers of benefits. On Friday, the
The long-term unemployed are an especially disadvantaged group, Furman said, but people who look a lot like the workforce as a whole. "This is a group that, for the most part through the bad luck of the recession, lost their job and haven't been able to get back on their feet since," he told reporters.
Furman also downplayed the significance of the declining labor force participation rate, which in December stood at its lowest level since 1977. That decline "wasn't just predictable, it was predicted," said Furman, claiming that about half the decline since 2008, and almost all of it in the past three years, has been because of demographic factors. The rest is cyclically driven, and reflects people staying in school longer, and some staying out of work longer after having a baby, as well as some people getting discouraged by poor job opportunities.
"We expect to see those people start re-entering the labor force" as the recovery continues, Furman said.
He also waved off concerns raised by former Obama economic adviser
Despite the "headwinds" of fiscal contraction and economic turmoil in
Furman also dismissed the idea that robots will displace human workers as technology improves. That idea, he said, "doesn't keep him up at night," because the economy has seen hundreds of years with rapid technological innovation, and most of the time roughly 97 percent of the people who want jobs can find them.
Furman has served as chairman of the
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