Despite fresh signs of weakness, the economy is not dipping back into recession, according to a survey of some of the nation's top forecasters, released Monday.
But the consensus of the 50 economists in the monthly survey projects that the economy will grow just 0.5 percent, at an annual rate, in the January-March quarter, little more than the barely perceptible 0.3 percent in the final three months of 1991.
Growth is forecast at a 2.2 percent rate in the second quarter, 3.1 percent in the third and 3.3 percent in the fourth. For the year, the analysts suggest the economy will expand by 1.6 percent.
"The economy continues to "teeter-totter' but the consensus suggests a modest recovery by summer," wrote Robert J. Eggert Sr., editor of the Blue Chip Economic Indicators, the Sedona, Ariz., newsletter that conducts the survey.
Some economists, citing growing unemployment and a stagnant industrial sector, contend that the economy dipped back into recession after expanding 1.4 percent in the second quarter of 1991 and 1.8 percent in the third.
The economy was down 0.7 percent for all of 1991.
In the January survey, the Blue Chip consensus also projected growth for this year at 1.6 percent, although the economists thought the economy was growing at an 0.8 percent rate in the first quarter. They forecast 3.2 percent growth in 1993.
President Bush's budget assumes the economy will grow 1.5 percent in 1992 and 3.0 percent in 1993.
The economy has averaged 6 percent growth in the first year of recovery from earlier recessions since World War II. Bush has acknowledged the weakness and has proposed various tax cuts and other incentives to stimulate growth.
The best incentives, according to the Blue Chip survey, are a tax credit for first-time home buyers, a cut in the capital gains tax and tax credits for business investment. The worst, the economists said, are a change in income tax withholding tables, a failure to reduce the defense budget even more and insufficient spending on the infrastructure and education.