Obama First President Since Great Depression Not to See 3% GDP Growth

Terence P. Jeffrey | March 1, 2017 | 11:00am EST
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President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress on Feb. 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) - With the Bureau of Economic Analysis reporting on Tuesday that real Gross Domestic Product grew at an estimated 1.6 percent in 2016, President Barack Obama remains the first president since the Great Depression not to see a single year with at least 3 percent growth in real GDP.

The economic contraction that started what is known as the Great Depression began in August 1929, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. That contraction ended in March 1933.

Depending on how you measure the Great Depression, it either ended then or seven or eight years later near the beginning of World War II. But whichever date is picked, the Great Depression ended in a year in which Franklin Roosevelt served as president, and Obama remains the only president since then not to see a year of 3 percent economic growth.

“If the term Great Depression is used to mean the period of exceptional decline in economic activity, it refers to the period from August 1929 to March 1933,” says NBER. “If it is used to also include the period until economic activity had returned to approximately normal levels, most economists would judge that it ended sometime in 1940 or 1941. However, just as the NBER does not define the term depression or identify depressions, there is no formal NBER definition or dating of the Great Depression.”

Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated on March 4, 1933, the month the severe economic contraction that started the Great Depression ended.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis has calculated annual GDP going back to 1929 and the annual growth in real GDP since 1930.

Since 2005, when real GDP grew by 3.3 percent, the United States has gone a record eleven straight years (2006 through 2016) without a seeing a single year in which real GDP grew by as much as 3 percent.

President Herbert Hoover was inaugurated in March 1929, five months before the Great Depression started. He left office in March 1933, when Roosevelt was inaugurated.

During the three full calendar years of Hoover’s term that the BEA has calculated the percentage growth in real GDP (1930-1932), the economy did best in 1931, when real GDP declined by 6.4 percent.

In 1933, the year Hoover departed and Roosevelt was inaugurated, real GDP declined by 1.3 percent.

But in each of the next four years, real GDP grew by more than 3 percent, hitting 10.8 percent in 1934; 8.9 percent in 1935; 12.9 percent in 1936; and 5.1 percent in 1937.

Real GDP grew at a faster pace during these years in the mid-1930s than it did at any time during Obama’s presidency.

In 1938, when Roosevelt was in his second term, real GDP dropped by 3.3 percent.

But in the next six years, including the first three years after Pearl Harbor, real GDP grew by large margins. In 1939, it climbed 8.0 percent; in 1940, 8.8 percent; in 1941, 17.7 percent; in 1942, 18.9 percent; in 1943, 17.0 percent; and in 1944, 8.0 percent.

In 1945, when Roosevelt died and Vice President Harry Truman assumed office--and when World War II ended--real GDP declined by 1.0 percent. In 1946, it dropped by 11.6 percent; and, in 1947, it dropped by 1.1 percent.

But in 1948, it bounced back, growing by 4.1 percent.

During Truman’s presidency, growth in real GDP peaked at 8.7 percent in 1950.

In Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, it peaked at 7.1 percent in 1955.

In John F. Kennedy’s presidency, it peaked at 6.1 percent in 1962.

In Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, it peaked at 6.6 percent in 1966.

In Richard Nixon’s presidency, it peaked at 5.6 percent in 1973.

In Gerald Ford’s presidency, it peaked at 5.4 percent in 1976.

In Jimmy Carter’s presidency, it peaked at 5.6 percent in 1978.

In Ronald Reagan’s presidency, it peaked at 7.3 percent in 1984.

In George H.W. Bush’s presidency, it peaked at 3.7 percent in 1989.

In Bill Clinton’s presidency, it peaked at 4.7 percent in 1999.

In George W. Bush’s presidency, it peaked at 3.8 percent in 2004.

In Barack Obama’s presidency, it peaked at 2.6 percent in 2015.

The BEA estimates annual growth in real GDP in sequential “vintages.” It puts out an “advance” estimate of the previous year’s growth near the end of January in the following year. It then makes a second estimate a month after that and a third estimate a month after that. In July, it issues an annual update.

The estimate the BEA released Tuesday that real GDP grew by 1.6 percent in 2016 was the BEA’s second estimate for 2016. The advance estimate, released last month, also calculated that real GDP grew by 1.6 percent in 2016.

The BEA says that in the years between 1993 and 2015, the average revision in real GDP growth from its advance estimate to it latest estimate, has been plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.


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