Is 2% the New Benchmark? I Hope Not.
GDP growth continues to disappoint. Today's advance estimate from the BEA pegs real GDP growth at just 1.22% in the second quarter. Further, the new report revises the first quarter rate down to just 0.8 percent. Ooof. The graph below shows quarterly growth rates in real GDP since the beginning of 2006.
Before the Great Recession, we got used to an average of 3% real GDP growth for decade after decade. But since that recession ended, real GDP has grown at just 2% per year. The last four quarters are now: 1.99%, 0.87%, 0.83%, and 1.22%. A decade ago, we'd consider that a horrible year.
So why isn't there more concern? Because unemployment rates have been consistently around 5 percent. But don't forget about the very low labor force participation rate, which is below 63% and this past year has been lower than at any time since the 1970s. So maybe this is the new normal: 2 percent real GDP growth, 5% unemployment, and millions of workers sitting on the sidelines. I hope not.