By Jeff Cox, CNBC.com Senior Writer
NEW YORK ( CNBC) -- Odds that the U.S. economy will enter recession are now close to 50-50 as unemployment heads on a path higher and pressures from Europe intensify, Goldman Sachs ( GS) economists said. Jan Hatzius, Goldman's chief U.S. economist, pegged recession chances at 40% and said the jobless rate is likely to surge to the mid-9% range in 2012. While that still jibes with the firm's forecast that a recession -- or two consecutive quarters of negative growth -- is not the most likely scenario, the warning signs flashed Tuesday underscore concerns about European debt contagion and an already fragile U.S. economy. "Ultimately, it's a judgment call," Hatzius said during a conference call. "We're basically indicating that we think the risk is sizeable and elevated, especially given the already underway deterioration in the labor market, although it's a gradual one. Historically, U.S. business cycles have been quite vulnerable to rising unemployment and deteriorating dynamics in the labor market."
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