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But an unusually long, cold and snowy winter has served to hold growth to the 2 percent range.

Optimists predict that the much-anticipated growth surge will appear this spring.

“There’s no permanent slow growth in this country,” said investment strategist and author Gary Shilling, who attributes the economy’s anemic growth rates to lingering strains from the financial crisis.

Recoveries from big banking and debt crises like those that shook the global economy in 2008 typically are prolonged and slow because households, banks and businesses are forced to slash spending for years to shed debt and return to solvency.

“We’ve got deleveraging,” Mr. Shilling told “Financial Sense Newshour.” “If history is any guide, we’ve got another four years to run, roughly. But when that’s over, I see no reason we’re not going to resume normal growth and probably even faster on a catch-up basis.”

New Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen also believes the economy’s mediocre growth is largely an aftereffect of the financial crisis and not a deeper structural change in the economy. At a news conference Wednesday, she cited “lingering conditions from the crisis” that are holding back growth, including millions of “underwater” houses that owners can’t sell or refinance, and the scarcity of home equity loans, mortgages and other credit for such homeowners as well as for people with average credit ratings.

Ms. Yellen’s insistence that the economy will return to normal after a long period of slower growth is significant.

Much is at stake for the Fed if the economy is on a permanently lower growth trajectory. If the economy can grow no faster than 2 percent on average, it may be unwise or futile for the Fed to try to stimulate growth as it has for years with near-zero interest rates and other extraordinary measures.

Morgan Stanley’s Mr. Reinhart said the Fed will have to adjust its policies to reflect the new realities. He co-authored a widely respected study that predicted the long, sluggish recovery from the Great Recession based on the diminished economic performances in other countries hit by severe financial crises since World War II.

“We have a long track record in warning that a severe financial crisis takes an enormous toll,” he said. “The expansion of potential output ground to a halt after the financial crisis.”

Productivity slides

Mr. Reinhart’s projections are not based only on the banking crisis. He said the biggest factors will be the decline in labor force growth and the decline in population growth to about 0.7 percent a year resulting from low birthrates and reduced immigration.

Also in the mix are declining productivity increases caused by reduced business investment in technology.

Lackluster business investment has caused U.S. worker annual productivity growth rates to tail off from more than 3 percent a decade ago to 0.5 percent last year. That trend, if it persists, has the potential to cut the economic growth rate significantly. A rule of thumb among economists ties the rate of economic growth to the growth rate in productivity plus the increase in the labor force. Thus, labor force growth of 0.5 percent, for example, combined with yearly productivity gains of 1.5 percent would yield a growth rate of about 2 percent on average.

The decline in the labor force may be hard to reverse, given the lure of retirement for the aging boomers, but the drop-off in business investment spending should be easier to remedy because American corporations have record amounts of cash on hand.

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