If you’re remotely like me, which is to say a worrier, you’ve been wondering when the next recession is going to hit. And if you’re a lot like me, which is to say the kind of worrier who makes Woody Allen seem mellow, you’ve also been wondering whether it’s a good idea to even mention the economy out loud. Because simply discussing the possibility of a downturn increases the likelihood of one occurring (in part, apparently, by hurting consumer confidence), and I haven’t wanted to jinx it.
Then the AIA released its June Architecture Billings Index statement, which points back to five consecutive months of declining or flat billings and a 10-year low in project inquiries. Gulp. AIA’s Consensus Construction Forecast came out five days later with far nicer news, predicting that while a few sectors (religious, for instance) will decline over the next 18 months, overall nonresidential will continue to grow (albeit more slowly next year than this year). A reprieve? Let’s hope. Nonetheless, I decided it was time to exorcise my fears by giving voice to them.
The news that a recession may be in the works—whether tomorrow or two years from now—shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The current expansion began in 2009, and last month it officially became the longest in U.S. history. Until the Reagan era, the average boom period lasted less than four years, so one could safely argue that we’re overdue—and many in the know are saying just that. In a 2018 survey of chief financial officers, two thirds of them expected the economy to falter by the end of 2020.