Real GDP grew at a robust 6.9% in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to the advance estimate from the BEA. Combined with growth from the first three quarters, this means 5.7% for the entire year 2021. The graph below shows that real GDP is now almost all the way back to its pre-COVID path.
This data indicates a very strong year of growth for real GDP in historical terms. But, of course, 2021 was not a normal year. Coming on the heals of shutdowns in 2020, there was a lot of ground to be made up. Still, with unemployment now below 4% and real GDP growth at almost 7%, it seems like the economy was humming along nicely at the end of 2021. That is, just before the Omicron variant of COVID-19 really spread at the very end of the year. It will be interesting to see how growth in the first quarter of 2022 is affected by Omicron. We can certainly hope that the effects are temporary.