by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The U.S. economy has scored 12 calendar quarters of uninterrupted growth since the end of the Great Recession. That three-year performance has at least defied persistent fears of a second dip. But over these three years, growth has run just 2.2%, anemic by any measure.
Reach back to 1950, and examine all periods that exclude recessions, and you’ll find there has never been a three-year interval that ran as low as 2.2%.
In fact, in the 61½ years since 1950, annual gross domestic product growth has run 3.2%, and that includes all periods of contraction. Exclude the high-growth decades of the 1950s and ’60s, and the recent three years of 2.2% growth still come up short. Growth since 1970 has averaged 2.9%—and again, that includes all recessions.
Try handicapping the recent 12 quarters. The government portion of GDP usually increases, and over nine of the past 12 quarters, there has been a decrease.
And what if we remove the drag from government portion of gross domestic product? Then the recent period loses some of its record-breaking status. Private-sector real GDP has expanded by 2.5% over the 12 quarters, rather than 2.2%, and there are a handful of three-year periods since 1970 that did slightly worse.
But that’s hardly reassuring. Since 1970, private-sector GDP growth has also averaged 2.5%, and that includes all recessions. Moreover, the years immediately following severe downturns are normally periods of rapid growth. If this one had a class ranking, it would be near the bottom.