Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2023
In this, our fourth year of Prediction Consensus (now part of our more comprehensive 2023 Global Forecast Series), we’ve learned a few things about the universe of predictions, experts, outlooks, and forecasts.
- Experts are reasonably good at predicting the future one year out, though they are also in a strong position to help shape the future through their influential thought leadership and actions.
- Situations can and will flare up in unexpected ways, which can have knock-on effects on the whole system (e.g. COVID-19, Ukraine invasion).
- Experts are just as susceptible to hype as the rest of us, as evidenced by the glut of Web3 predictions in 2022 and AI predictions this year.
Of course, we’re susceptible to hype as well, which is why we asked ChatGPT to write the intro to this article:
Not bad. But, simple curiosity aside, it’s the practical considerations we’ll focus on today. This article serves as an overview of how experts think the markets will move, how trends will develop, and which risks and opportunities to watch over the coming 12 months.
Let’s gaze into the crystal ball.
The Economic Vibe Check
First, we’ll look at some big picture themes, and how experts see them playing out over 2023.
Inflation: This was the top economic story of last year, so it’s a natural starting place. Many of the expert opinions in this year’s database (now at 500+ predictions) are pointing to inflation easing off as the year progresses*. On the downside, few predict that inflation will drop back down to the 2% range that Fed policymakers favor.
GDP: Forecasters have been revising their economic projections downward in recent weeks. The latest was World Bank, which now sees global growth declining to 1.7% in 2023, down from 3% just six months ago. Most of the predictions in our database see global economic growth in the range of 1.5% to 2%.
Recession: As 2022 came to a close, the broad sentiment among experts in the financial industry is that recession is all but inevitable in developed markets this year. As dawn breaks in 2023, a few analysts now feel that the U.S.—and possibly Europe—could narrowly avoid recession.
Markets: Experts on Wall Street and beyond are cautiously optimistic about equities, and after the worst year on record for bonds in 2022, most analysts are declaring that “Bonds are back”.
*Interestingly, this was also last year’s prediction, but the scale of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a curve ball that caught many experts off guard.
AI is Eating the World
Jobs being displaced by automation is far from a new theme, but given the exponential improvements in AI in recent years, the risk to entire industries feels more existential today.
As an example, let’s consider art and design. One of the ways many illustrators and artists earn a living is through commissions—essentially being hired and paid to create a specific piece of art in their style.
Today though, free, powerful AI tools, such as Midjourney, allow users to generate high-quality art in an infinite number of styles with just a few clicks. Real art will never truly go out of style, and accomplished artists will always attract an audience, but this one example shows how quickly technology can disrupt an industry. (Artists can take solace in the fact that AI is still comically bad at rendering hands.)
Of course, there are obvious positive aspects to this technological advancement as well. Generative AI tools are useful for generating ideas and mock-ups, and even functional snippets of code. AI systems like AlphaFold unlock a world of possibilities in scientific domains.
From the hundreds of predictions we evaluated, it’s clear that experts view AI as a major catalyst this year. AI start-ups are forcing Big Tech to innovate faster, and employees are finding new ways to use AI-powered tools to increase productivity.
Experts predict that AI will impact peoples’ lives in a much more visible and tangible way in 2023 than in past years.
The China Factor
As world’s second largest economy and linchpin of global trade, events in China have a major impact on the world economy.
Xi Jinping’s reversal of Zero-COVID restrictions should drastically change the trajectory of the country’s economy. For one, reopening will unleash a flood of household spending and consumption.
China’s reopening will also impact other economies as well. For example, the resumption of travel will be a boon to destinations favored by Chinese vacationers. Economically, Hong Kong stands to benefit immensely—its GDP could jump upwards of 8% after reopening is complete. Emerging market commodity exporters could see a lift as well, though inflation could be reinvigorated as a result.
In the U.S., a storm is brewing over the extremely popular video app, TikTok. Many experts predict that regulators will either ban the app altogether in 2023, or force the sale of the company to an American entity. Regardless how that situation plays out, it underscores the souring relationship between the U.S. and China. The rivalry will continue to have ripple effects on the global markets throughout the year.
Energy was the S&P 500’s top performing sector two years in a row, and many experts feel that more growth is on the horizon.
The global system that supplies us with energy is breathtakingly complex, with a lot of unpredictable factors at play. Of all factors, conflict can create the most volatility, and 2023 has a number of geopolitical risks that could impact energy supplies. First, Europe will continue to diversify its energy imports away from Russia. Recently, liquefied natural gas from the U.S. has helped fill gaps.
Next, Iran could be a flashpoint in the Middle East this year. A brewing conflict in the region could cause instability, which will have knock-on effects on the energy industry—particularly in the event of attacks on oil and gas infrastructure.
Here are a few other factors to consider this coming year:
- The U.S. Energy Department will aim to replenish its Strategic Petroleum Reserve
- Easing of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela could lay the ground work for increased oil production
- In post-Zero-COVID China, economic activity will increase, pushing up demand
- In the UK, the energy price guarantee will rise in April, meaning higher energy bills for households
The Elon Playbook
After a lull in December (nobody wants to be the company that fires people during the holiday season) tech and tech-adjacent companies have resumed their zealous slashing of headcounts.
There had been a slew of layoffs already in 2023, topped by Salesforce, which is trimming 7,000 jobs, and Amazon, which is cutting 18,000 roles—primarily impacting the corporate side of the business.
Given the influence of Elon Musk in the tech industry, many experts are suggesting that his strategy of ruthlessly slashing headcount at Twitter might serve as inspiration for other technology leaders.
Employees in the tech industry are very well compensated, and many were hired during periods of intense competition between companies to attract talent and capture market share.
During a downturn, it’s tempting—and often necessary—for companies to course-correct. There were also predictions that the whole start-up and investment ecosystem could be switching from a hypergrowth to a value-focused mindset, which is a theme that is worth consideration in 2023.
Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs Since 2020
How bad are the current layoffs in the tech sector? This visual reveals the 20 biggest tech layoffs since the start of the pandemic.
Ranked: America’s 20 Biggest Tech Layoffs This Decade
The events of the last few years could not have been predicted by anyone. From a global pandemic and remote work as the standard, to a subsequent hiring craze, rising inflation, and now, mass layoffs.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, essentially laid off the equivalent of a small town just weeks ago, letting go of 12,000 people—the biggest layoffs the company has ever seen in its history. Additionally, Amazon and Microsoft have also laid off 10,000 workers each in the last few months, not to mention Meta’s 11,000.
This visual puts the current layoffs in the tech industry in context and ranks the 20 biggest tech layoffs of the 2020s using data from the tracker, Layoffs.fyi.
The Top 20 Layoffs of the 2020s
Since 2020, layoffs in the tech industry have been significant, accelerating in 2022 in particular. Here’s a look at the companies that laid off the most people over the last three years.
|Rank||Company||# Laid Off||% of Workforce||As of|
Layoffs were high in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, halting the global economy and forcing staff reductions worldwide. After that, things were steady until the economic uncertainty of last year, which ultimately led to large-scale layoffs in tech—with many of the biggest cuts happening in the past three months.
The Cause of Layoffs
Most workforce slashings are being blamed on the impending recession. Companies are claiming they are forced to cut down the excess of the hiring boom that followed the pandemic.
Additionally, during this hiring craze competition was fierce, resulting in higher salaries for workers, which is now translating in an increased need to trim the fat thanks to the current economic conditions.
Of course, the factors leading up to these recent layoffs are more nuanced than simple over-hiring plus recession narrative. In truth, there appears to be a culture shift occurring at many of America’s tech companies. As Rani Molla and Shirin Ghaffary from Recode have astutely pointed out, tech giants really want you to know they’re behaving like scrappy startups again.
Twitter’s highly publicized headcount reduction in late 2022 occurred for reasons beyond just macroeconomic factors. Elon Musk’s goal of doing more with a smaller team seemed to resonate with other founders and executives in Silicon Valley, providing an opening for others in tech space to cut down on labor costs as well. In just one example, Mark Zuckerberg hailed 2023 as the “year of efficiency” for Meta.
Meanwhile, over at Google, 12,000 jobs were put on the chopping block as the company repositions itself to win the AI race. In the words of Google’s own CEO:
“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today… We have a substantial opportunity in front of us with AI across our products and are prepared to approach it boldly and responsibly.”– Sundar Pichai
The Bigger Picture in the U.S. Job Market
Beyond the tech sector, job openings continue to rise. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed a total of 11 million job openings across the U.S., an increase of almost 7% month-over-month. This means that for every unemployed worker in America right now there are 1.9 job openings available.
Additionally, hiring increased significantly in January, with employers adding 517,000 jobs. While the BLS did report a decrease in openings in information-based industries, openings are increasing rapidly especially in the food services, retail trade, and construction industries.
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