A contraction in the nation’s economic output in the first quarter again deferred hopes for a sustained pickup in growth, another stumble for a lackluster recovery approaching the end of its fifth year.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, shrank at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1% in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The agency last month initially estimated GDP grew at a 0.1% rate in the first quarter.
The drop marked the economy’s first contraction in three years, though economists say the downturn should be short-lived and likely doesn’t herald a new recession. “Nobody likes to see a negative for growth,” said Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist at Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services. “But it doesn’t change my expectation that the economy is recovering at a nice pace. I call it a recovery delayed.”
I would like to think that it is just “a recovery delayed,” and I would also like to think that “it’s not a big deal” that the American economy shrank a whole percentage point, but given the uncertainty and unevenness associated with the current “recovery,” I have to believe that this latest news bulletin regarding the state of the economy is a cause for at least some concern. Maybe the numbers will be revised upward in the future, but of course, it is entirely possible that the numbers will be revised downward as well. And maybe now that the weather is warming up, we will see more sustained economic growth, but are we really supposed to fear for our pocketbooks every time it gets a little brisk out there?
Let’s face facts at long last: The current “recovery” is anything but. We have barely made up the ground we lost since the advent of the Great Recession. And we’d better do something to accelerate recovery lest we remain stuck in the doldrums, and lest the lives of those impacted by the economic downturn become irretrievably ruined.