Business leaders told President Reagan yesterday that the recovery from the current recession will be very gradual, and some of the jobs lost in basic industries will never reappear.
Some of the business leaders predicted further declines in interest rates, as did a number of leading Wall Street economists at an investment conference in New York. Rates have dropped sharply following disclosure of a decision by the Federal Reserve Board last week to permit the money supply to grow above its target rates, for the time being, easing the availability of credit.
Albert M. Wojnilower, chief economist of First Boston Corp., said, "The danger of depression with a capital 'D' has been lifted as a result of the Fed's latest action."
But Wojnilower predicted a weak recovery in the economy, beginning in the near future, with the gross national product, adjusted for inflation, increasing 2 or 3 percent next year.
The Labor Department provided further evidence yesterday that unemployment is not abating, reporting that 695,000 persons filed new claims for state unemployment insurance benefits in the nation in the week ending Oct. 2, the second highest figure since the recession began.
The business leaders who met with the president shared Wojnilower's guarded view of the recovery. "In effect, the recovery has started," Paul Thayer, chairman of LTV Corp. and head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told reporters after the meeting with Reagan. He said, however, that the recovery would be "very moderate" and that some of the jobs lost in basic industries will never reappear, even after the economy recovers.
Walter Wriston, chairman of Citicorp, also predicted a moderate recovery, adding that interest rates will continue to decline if the Reagan administration can lessen inflationary pressures. He said he told the president that some members of the business community are concerned that the defense budget is excessive, but said he had concluded from the meeting with the president that the defense budget is "sacrosanct."
Wriston said he does not believe the federal reserve has changed policy in deemphasizing concentration on the weekly money supply figures. He said the move is only a "tactical change."
Wojnilower, however, saw the Fed's actions as being aimed more toward lowering short-term interest rates. He described the new tack as a "seat of the pants" policy that will be more sensitive to the economy, and said he doubted the Fed would return to the "straitjacket" of keeping close watch on money supply figures and targeting the federal funds rate.
Although Wojnilower predicted that the discount rate, currently at 9 1/2 percent, would be reduced to 8 1/2 percent or 8 percent in coming months, he said the additional cuts in the rate had probably already been anticipated by financial markets and reflected in the increase in stock prices.
Other economists at the New York conference, sponsored by Institutional Investor magazine, predicted that the prime rate would fall still further by the end of the year. The prime currently stands at 12 percent, after a round of cuts by major banks this week from the 13 percent level.
W. Lee Hoskins, economist at Pittsburgh National Bank, and Alan C. Lerner, economist for Bankers Trust Co., predicted the prime would fall to 10 percent by year's end. A third economist, David M. Jones of Aubrey G. Lanston, forecast an 11 percent prime by the end of the year, with the rate dropping to 7 percent by next September.