Recession is here - poll

71% of economists questioned by The Wall Street Journal say the economy is contracting.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The U.S. economy is now in a recession, according to a poll of economists published Thursday by The Wall Street Journal.

Of 51 respondents, 71% said the economy is in recession, the newspaper reported. The poll was conducted between March 7 and March 11.

In addition, 53% said they expect the economy to contract in the first quarter, according to the Journal. And 45% said they expect the economy to contract in the next quarter as well.

On average, the respondents said the economy would grow at an annual rate of only 0.1% for the current quarter and 0.4% for the next.

Respondents said there was a 48% chance that the 2008 downturn could be worse than what was felt in the early 1990s and in 2001, according to the Journal.

They forecasted that consumer prices will be growing 3.5% by June, up from the survey's forecast made last month of 2.7%. Most of them expected the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates to 2% from 3%, and 63% of respondents said the government will eventually step in with public money to deal with the housing crisis, according to the report.

The economists expect non-farming jobs to grow by only 9,000 a month over the next 12 months, down from 48,500 predicted in the last survey, and 20 of the economists expect payrolls to shrink, the Journal said. Economists also predicted the unemployment rate, currently 4.8%, would be around 5.5% by December.

Furthermore, the economists gave Fed chairman Ben Bernanke a 59% chance of retaining his job when his term expires in 2010, the Journal said. To top of page

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