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Q1 GDP Third Estimate Goes Less Negative

June 24, 2015

by Doug Short

The Third Estimate for Q1 GDP, to one decimal, came in at -0.2 percent, an increase of 0.5 from the -0.7 percent of the Second Estimate. Today's number was not entirely a surprise, as both Investing.com and Briefing.com had a forecast of -0.2.

Today's weak number, however, was not a complete shock. Note that the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow indicator, last updated on April 26th, was forecasting Q1 GDP at 0.1 percent.

Here is an excerpt from the Bureau of Economic Analysis news release:

Real gross domestic product -- the value of the production of goods and services in the United States, adjusted for price changes -- decreased at an annual rate of 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to the "third" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 2.2 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the "second" estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the decrease in real GDP was 0.7 percent. With the third estimate for the first quarter, exports decreased less than previously estimated, and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) and imports increased more (see "Revisions" on page 3).

The decrease in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected negative contributions from exports, nonresidential fixed investment, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by positive contributions from PCE, private inventory investment, and residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. [Full Release]

Here is a look at Quarterly GDP since Q2 1947. Prior to 1947, GDP was calculated annually. To be more precise, the chart shows is the annualized percent change from the preceding quarter in Real (inflation-adjusted) Gross Domestic Product. We've also included recessions, which are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Also illustrated are the 3.26% average (arithmetic mean) and the 10-year moving average, currently at 1.49 percent.

Quarterly GDP since 1947

Note: The headline -0.2% GDP is -0.172% at three decimal places. The callout in chart above is rounded to two decimal places.

Here is a log-scale chart of real GDP with an exponential regression, which helps us understand growth cycles since the 1947 inception of quarterly GDP. The latest number puts us 14.2% below trend, the largest negative spread in the history of this series.

with a Regression

A particularly telling representation of slowing growth in the US economy is the year-over-year rate of change.

Real GDP Year-over-Year

In summary, the Q1 GDP Advance Estimate of -0.2 percent was about what mainstream economists estimated.

Other GDP updates:

Real GDP Per Capita

Visualizing GDP