ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. economy and job market will likely improve modestly next year, a panel of economists, strategists, academics and policymakers said in a survey Monday.
The economy's growth throughout the year will likely reach an annualized, inflation-adjusted 3 percent by 2013's fourth quarter, the National Association for Business Economics survey of 48 professional forecasters indicated.
But the annual average growth is forecast to be 2.1 percent, slightly less than 2012's projected annual average 2.2 percent, the December NABE Outlook survey indicated.
Non-farm job growth will likely increase to an average 165,000 jobs a month next year, the survey said. This year's average growth has been 151,000 jobs a month. Last month 146,000 jobs were added, the U.S. Labor Department said Dec. 7.
The annual unemployment rate will likely be an average 7.7 percent, down from this year's forecast annual average 8.1 percent, which is down from 2011's annual average 9 percent, the survey said.
The nation's unemployment rate was 7.7 percent last month, down from October's 7.9 percent, the Labor Department said.
Wages and benefits are also expected to grow slightly next year, up 2.6 percent from this year's forecast 2.4 percent growth, the survey found.
Average hourly earnings this year are up about 1.7 percent from a year earlier, the Labor Department said.
In addition, labor productivity is expected to increase, the survey said, with non-farm business output per hour growing 1.5 percent, up from this year's projected 1.2 percent. Growth in 2011 was 0.7 percent.
"The panelists expect modest growth in the economy in 2013 as a whole, which accelerates steadily as the year progresses," survey Chairwoman Nayantara Hensel, a National Defense University industry and business professor, said in a statement.
"The panelists also suggest some reduction in the U.S. 2013 federal budget deficit relative to the 2012 federal budget deficit," she said.
The survey makes no mention of the looming $500 billion to $600 billion in automatic tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts due to take effect in two weeks and a day if Congress and the White House fail to break an impasse on the impending "fiscal cliff."
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated doing over the cliff would cut growth about 3 percentage points next year and push unemployment back up.