The GDP Dive

I nearly missed this what with my focus on primaries, but a second revision of first quarter GDP for 2014 showed a really startling contraction of 2.9%. That’s the first quarterly contraction since 2011, and the worst since 2009. But the stock market went up anyway, and there’s relatively little freaking out going on. Brother Benen offers some explanations:

So, is this GDP report cause for alarm? It’s certainly not good news, but for a few reasons, it’s probably best to keep the handwringing in check.

For one thing, most economists and financial-industry analysts expect the economy to bounce back in the second quarter, which ends next week. Indeed, as discouraging as the first quarter data is, note that it points to a time period from several months ago.

For another, there’s a broader context to consider. When the economy shrank in the first quarter of 2009, for example, the U.S. lost over 2.3 million jobs. When the economy shrank in the first quarter of 2014, the U.S. added nearly 600,000 jobs and is currently on pace for its best year for job creation since the late ’90s.

This is hardly the stuff of panic.

The contraction was real and important, but it was also the result of unexpected shifts in health care spending and an unusually harsh winter for much of the country. There’s very little to suggest, at least at this point, that it’s the start of a downward trend in the economy overall.

Benen goes on to say a good hedge against an unlikely second recession would be some stimulative policies that also boost long-term growth. Fat chance of that with Republicans controlling the House.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.