Did the Last Quarter Finally Bring Growth Back?

A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 20 2013 2:28 PM

Did the Last Quarter Finally Bring Growth Back?

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released its latest revision to third quarter gross domestic product numbers and the news is ... really good. It says that the economy's nominal output rose 6.2 percent in the third quarter and that 4.8 of those percentage points were real output.

If true, this is three kinds of good news. The first is that nominal output growth of above 5 percent is the kind of "catch-up" demand that the country needs after a prolonged funk. The second kind of good news is that in the context of that kind of rapid nominal growth, the low inflation number (and therefore the high real growth number) is great news that the economy still has lots of running room. Our workers and our capital goods haven't become useless, there simply hasn't been enough demand for their output. The third piece of good news is that while the previous revision to this figure was basically just a big bump in inventories, today's revision was about final demand so it means the growth is sustainable.

The bad news is ... I'm not entirely persuaded this data is correct. Real gross domestic income, which longtime national accounting fans will recall is an alternative way of estimating the same quantity that RGDP is supposed to measure, rose by a fairly anemic 1.8 percent.


Given enough time, GDP and GDI estimates usually converge ,which is good because GDP=GDI by definition. And in recent years the convergence has usually taken the form of meeting closer to the GDI number than to the GDP number. So this could all be a kind of statistical mirage. I'd say Barack Obama's sagging poll numbers are also an indication that the more pessimistic GDI estimate may be the more accurate one. The conventional wisdom says it's all about the healthcare.gov mishaps, but we all remember from Bill Clinton's second term that robust economic growth leads to a lot of forgiveness. I tend to think that if the economy were really accelerating, we'd see indication of that in a brighter public mood.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.