CBO Dropping Its Budget Update Aug. 23

OK, “drop” is perhaps a bit too hypey, making the release by the Congressional Budget Office of its midyear update sound too much like a new music release. But you get the idea. And it’s August in Washington—honestly, what else are you gonna do if you’re interested in budget and economics?

In its announcement Tuesday, the nonpartisan CBO said the report will be on its website at 2 p.m. EDT Aug. 23. The CBO already let the cat out of the bag in terms of the biggest revision in the report—upping the forecast for the fiscal 2016 deficit.

Coin stack

In its monthly budget review—which usually just looks at the upcoming Treasury Department monthly budget results and any year-to-date trends—the CBO said it was boosting its deficit call from the $534 billion it made in March to $590 billion. That’s close to the $600 billion even forecast made by the CBO’s counterparts in the Obama administration, the Office of Management and Budget. OMB released its update July 15. It would also be the first uptick in the annual deficit since 2011

While the actual deficit for 2016 won’t be known until early October, CBO’s estimate is likely to be close to the final number, if for no other reason than most of the fiscal year is behind us. Federal financial flows are very seasonal, with some months—particularly April, with the income tax deadline—almost always being surplus months and others almost always being monthly deficits. Once CBO and OMB had an idea of July’s budget data, they had only to extrapolate what August and September would be to arrive at a final FY 2016 forecast. 

What may be more interesting is how much CBO will alter its economic assumptions. In its mid-year review, the OMB downgraded its gross domestic product projections for 2016 and 2017 and slightly boosted its unemployment rate forecasts for those years.