Economic forecasts expected to improve on jobs data

"Forecasts will be marked down in the next month to about 8.2 percent and 8.3 percent," he said. 

The CBO and Fed recently released some dismal figures showing unemployment rising this year to almost 9 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively. 

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account On The Money: Democrats move funding bills as budget caps deal remains elusive | Companies line up to weigh in on 0B China tariffs | Trudeau to talk trade with Pelosi, McConnell MORE (R-Utah) grilled the well-known economist, saying the improvements the unemployment numbers were being driven by a shrinking labor force. 

But Zandi argued that the numbers engaged in the workforce has held steady "nearly constant" since August. 

"The recent rapid drop in the unemployment rate is real, resulting primarily from more jobs and not from a declining labor force," he said. 

He expects that labor force growth "is likely to remain soft in coming months, suggesting that even with only modest job growth, the unemployment rate will fall further and more quickly."

"Not until unemployment falls meaningfully below 7 percent will wage growth pick up enough to draw more potential workers back into the labor force," Zandi said in his prepared testimony. 

Although he said it is premature to say that the economy is "off and running" he did say that "we're close to the light switch going on."

He says businesses are at a point where they are ready to grow, a signal they will pick up hiring. 

For the economy to march onward toward a more robust recovery, Congress needs to pass a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits extension.

"We don't want to take the chance that we let that lapse because the cost to taxpayers is measurably more significant without it," he said. 

"It's an insurance policy for the economic recovery."

Panel Chairman Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Overnight Health Care: Biden infuriates abortion-rights groups with stance on Hyde Amendment | Trump tightens restrictions on fetal tissue research | Democrats plan event to scrutinize Trump's mental health MORE (D-Pa.) and Vice Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyFirst major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides First major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides House passes bipartisan IRS reform bill without 'Free File' provision MORE (R-Texas), most members of the 20-lawmaker conference committee reiterated that they expect the conferees to reach an agreement on a bill despite the hurdles, including a lack of time, it faces.