US GDP growth stumbles in Q2

A slower-than-expected rise in GDP cools expectations of US economic growth this year. But is it all doom and gloom?

US GDP

Slowing American GDP growth disappoints markets

Despite estimates forecasting another surging quarter for the US economy, annualised GDP growth failed to match the Dow Jones estimate of 8.4%.

GPD instead rose 6.5% in Q2 2021 according to the US Commerce Department’s initial reading today. Q1’s gross domestic product was downrated slightly to 6.3%.

So, a disappointing quarter which promised so much. Markets were expecting the US economy to surge as pent up demand gets unleashed. That hasn’t happened.

Even so, 6.5% is still pretty rapid expansion for a mature economy like the US.

We’ve seen in July PMI releases that economic activity in the manufacturing and services sectors dropped off compared with June. Higher prices of raw materials, and a labour shortage, all contributed to the lower output. Let’s be clear: the readings still showed growth, at 60.6 and 60.1 respectively, but it appears to be cooling off.

Other factors are at play here too. The delta variant appears to be running rampant throughout the southern states. Surging prices caused by inflation has weakened purchasing power. The impact of the huge fiscal stimulus provided by the Biden Administration is starting to wear off.

The labour market, in particular, has struggled to reach its pre-pandemic levels. There remains a gap of about 6.8 million jobs missing from the sector pre-market. This comes despite last months’ bumper nonfarm payrolls print when 850,000 new jobs were added to the US economy.

400,000 new unemployment insurance claims were filed in the week ending July 24th. That’s roughly double the pre-pandemic level. Continuing claims now floats around the 3.27 million mark.

The outlook for the next quarter, based on these stats, has diminished. Some estimates forecast 3.5% growth – not exactly the fire-breathing rapid rise we were anticipating.

Private domestic investment fell by 3.5% in the last quarter. Federal spending also dropped 5%. A rise in imports was also noted.

Are there any positives regarding this quarter’s US GDP growth?

Actually, yes.

With the latest estimates, the US GDP is now above pre-pandemic levels, indicating there are still strong fundamentals powering the economy along.

Personal savings essentially halved during the review period from $4.1 trillion to $1.97 trillion. Consumers stashing savings isn’t a good thing for sophisticated economies, so it was encouraging to see consumers spend.

Inf act, 69% of all economic activity in the US during Q2 2021 was driven by consumer spending, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. During the review period, it jumped up 11.7%.

The US economy has come on leaps and bounds since the first Covid shutdown. At its lowest point, gross economic output slumped 31.4% in Q2 2020. After that, it rebounded 33.4% and has continued on a growth footing ever since.

If we remove Covid-19 and its economic effects from the equation, current second quarter GDP growth would represent the fastest rate since 2003.

So, there is some room for optimism – but be sure to temper it with the realisation we’ve probably seen peak recovery for this year already. It’s like that growth will slow throughout the rest of the year as the economy fully resets.