Source: Trade and Taxes
Raymond L. Richman
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis issued a misleading report when it announced October 29, 2009, that annualized Gross Domestic Product, measured in 2005 prices, increased 3.5 percent from the 2nd quarter 2009 to the 3rd Quarter of 2009. The fact is that annualized GDP in the 3rd quarter was $13,014 billion compared with $12,901 in the 2nd quarter , an increase of 0.872, less than one percent. The number, 3½ , asserted by the BEA was obtained by multiplying 0.872 by 4, in other words by extrapolating the rate of increase in the 3rd quarter for three additional future quarters, hardly a scientific way of prediction . What is worse, analysis of the data indicates no reason to expect any future growth of the economy at all.
Net private non-residential investment, the key to a growing economy, declined in the 3rd quarter. So did net exports. Exports increased but imports increased even more, resulting in a drag on the economy. Personal Consumption increased but that was due principally to a non-recurring factor, the “klunkers” rebate, a costly exercise in subsidized consumption which did more economic harm than good. We already have evidence that it was at the expense of sales in the succeeding period. Thus, it will contribute to a decline in the current quarter. And it will no doubt have a negative effect on auto repairs and maintenance expenditures. Although the administration claimed that it was intended as a stimulus to the economy, it was done at the urging of environmentalists wanting to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Personal Consumption may increase in the future but there was nothing in the 3rd quarter data to give any assurance that it will.
Personal consumption may grow if expectations about the future of the economy improve. Unfortunately, the data do not lend to the expectation of the economy’s growth. The real growth of the economy is dependent on fixed private investment. Private non-residential fixed investment fell, -1.88 percent in current dollars and -.636 percent in 2005 dollars. Multiply those by four!
The other principal contributor to economic growth is positive net exports. While exports of goods rose 4.65 percent in current dollars and 3.49 percent in 2005 dollars, imports increased faster, 6.43 percent and 3.86 percent respectively. This occurred in spite of a falling dollar which is supposed to increase exports and reduce imports. Multiply those numbers by four, too!
For years we have been warning that the growing trade deficits of the U.S. were a threat to the health of the U.S. economy. It caused the loss of millions of industrial jobs, depressed wages as the laid off industrial workers sought jobs in the service sector, and worsened the American distribution of income. It is urgent that we get trade into reasonable balance. If we succeed, the economy has a chance of recovering quickly because it would stimulate private investment , growth, and employment. These and other measures appear in our book, Trading Away Our Future (2008), which deals with the causes of and cures for the trade deficits.
The stock markets boomed on the news that GDP had grown at an annual rate of 3.5 percent. Pres. Obama and Dr. Romer, Chairwoman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, repeated the number. The latter should have known better. What should have been reported is that in the third quarter GDP rose, compared with the 2nd quarter, 1.06 percent in current dollars and 0.87 percent in 2005 dollars. The next day, after investors had time to read the release and the accompanying tables, the stock markets collapsed.
We have great respect for the Bureau of Economic Analysis and their statistical methods. But the extrapolation of the rate of growth into the future serves no purpose and adds nothing to the data and should be abandoned.
Link to BEA Report: http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdpnewsrelease.htm
Note: It says, “Real gross domestic product…increased at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2009…” The use of the term Annual Rate means that GDP actually only rose by 0.87% during the 3rd Quarter of 2009. Thus, I concur. This is a shameful deception by the Obama Administration and he needs to be called on it.
It’s also debatable whether when annualizing GDP growth one should take the previous three quarters plus the current one, or as makes no sense here, take the current quarter and expand it out by three future quarters at the same rate.
I don’t see any consistency with this even with the BEA. In checking the BEA’s 2nd quarter report, for example, GDP decreased by -0.8% in the 2nd Quarter but the annualized decrease was stated as minus -1.0%, not minus -3.2% as would be apples to apples. So what’s up with that?