Only 12% Chance We'll Return to Recession Forecast fastest expansion in years on consumer spending By Matt Cantor, Newser User Posted Feb 14, 2011 8:39 AM CST 8 comments Comments In this Dec. 14, 2010 photo, Carrie Marable of Waco, Texas, shops for a holiday gift at the Family Dollar store, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) (Newser) – Economists are growing more optimistic about this year’s climate, predicting it will expand at its fastest pace since 2003, the Wall Street Journal reports. The paper polled 51 economists. Among the highlights: Economists see only a 12% risk of returning to recession, compared to 22% in September. In the 4th quarter of 2011, economists expect GDP to be 3.5% higher than a year before—beating last month’s prediction of a 3.3% increase. This quarter, economists expect growth at a 3.6% annual rate, faster than the 3.2% rate that marked the end of 2010. Turmoil abroad isn't affecting their outlook: 90% said the recent events in Egypt haven't substantially changed their economic forecasts. Still, major hurdles remain: They expect unemployment to be 8.6% at year’s end, lower than last month but still high.