Data released last week by the U.S. government showed the U.S. economy came to a near halt in the first three months of 2015, falling to nearly zero – i.e. a mere 0.2 percent annual growth rate for the January-March quarter. The collapse was the fourth time that the U.S. economy in the past four years either came to a virtual halt or actually declined. Four times in four years it has stalled out. So what’s going on?
In 2011, the U.S. economy collapsed to 0.1 percent in terms of annual growth rate. At the end of 2012, to a mere 0.2 percent initial decline. In early 2014, it actually declined by -2.2 percent.
And now in 2015, it is essentially flat once again at 0.2 percent. The numbers are actually even worse, if one discounts the redefinitions of GDP that were made by the US in 2013, counting new categories as contributing to growth, like R&D spending, that for decades were not considered contributors to growth – in effect creating economic growth by statistical manipulation. Those highly questionable 2013 definitional additions to growth added around US$500 billion a year to U.S. growth estimates, or about 0.3 percent of U.S. GDP. Back those redefinitions out, and the U.S. experienced negative GDP four times in the last four years. We get -0.2 percent in 2011, 0 percent in 2012, -2.5 percent in 2014 and -0.1 percent earlier this year.
It is therefore arguable that the U.S. has also experienced at least one mild ‘double dip’ recession, and perhaps two, since 2010.
All the four U.S. economic relapses occurred following preceding month gains in growth sufficient to generate claims by politicians and pundits alike that the U.S. economy had finally ‘turned the corner’ and was now on a path of sustained economic recovery. Yet every time such claims were made, reality contradicted their predictions within a few months, and the economy collapsed again, creating a scenario not of sustained economic recovery but of a ‘stop-go’ trajectory.