Despite widespread optimism on Wall Street, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has a stark reality check for the U.S. economy.

Speaking at AllianceBernstein's Strategic Decisions conference, Dimon said a tough combination of slow growth, high unemployment, and rising costs of living—otherwise known as stagflation—could be on its way.

“I’m not saying it’s going to happen, I just give the odds much higher than other people,” Dimon said.

“I look at the amount of fiscal and monetary stimulus that has taken place over the last five years—it has been so extraordinary, how can you tell me it won’t lead to stagflation?”

Stagflation is a complex economic problem to solve. Attempting to fix one part of the issue can worsen a different area, dragging out the crisis for much longer.

For example, businesses reducing their output in response to high operating costs can lead to job losses and increased costs of goods, which then slows the economy even further.

The vicious cycle then continues as consumers spend less money.

An unwanted revival of the 70s

Dimon is concerned that all the money being pumped into the economy in recent years could lead to a repeat of the economic woes of the 1970s.

Those born in the 1950s and 1960s will have painful memories of long lines at gas stations, labor strikes and hard decisions at the grocery store—not unlike today's struggles, especially during Covid.

Dimon's cautionary stance comes at a time when Wall Street is largely optimistic about the economic outlook for 2024.

A recent Goldman Sachs event survey showed that 53% of investors are positive about the year ahead, with 39% neutral and less than 10% on the pessimistic end of the spectrum, according to Fortune.

However, Dimon, who has a track record of prudent risk assessment, isn't falling for the hype so easily.

According to the most recent gross domestic product (GDP) report, the U.S. economy grew by just 1.3% in the first quarter of 2024 versus the 3.4% rate of growth of the previous quarter. S

Yet, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce insists there's no threat—inflation is still high, but slow growth is still growth and unemployment remains low.

The wider market outlook

Dimon stressed that the financial sector is prepping for a "soft" landing in the hope that the Fed can slow things down without a recession. But things may not play out as expected.

"If we have a soft landing and rates stay where they are or come down slightly, everyone's fine," he acknowledged.

But he quickly countered, "If you have a harder landing with stagflation, you're going to see a lot of stress and strain in the system from banks to leveraged companies to real estate."

The overall mood on Wall Street is upbeat, but Dimon's take is a reminder that optimistic groupthink has historically preceded some of the worst crises.