Explaining Southern California's economy

Can we really get excited about 0.2 percent better GDP growth?

Northwest Connecticut Hit Hard By Economic Slowdown

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A closed factory sits in Waterbury, Connecticut. The government has revised up U.S. GDP growth numbers for the second quarter, but GDP continues to be weak.

Under the circumstances, we should take it. The Commerce Department just revised up second quarter U.S. GDP growth to 1.7 percent from 1.5 percent.

If you're keeping score at home, this means that in the second quarter of 2012, the U.S. economy grew at a rate that matches expansion in the whole of 2011 — a rate that was considered abysmal at the end of last year, in the context of a fourth quarter in 2011 that saw GDP growth of 4.1 percent.

I like to keep an eye on GDP as it relates to unemployment, which is currently at 8.3 nationally, higher in California and L.A. Growth at 1.7 percent — or anything under 2 percent, really — isn't enough to make much of a dent there. In order to get nearly 13 million unemployed Americans back to work, we need to add 350-400,000 new jobs each month. We're doing less than 100,000 these days, after starting the year at about 200,000-per-month pace. 

To improve that performance, we need GDP growth at something more like 4-5 percent — a consistent improvement over the fourth quarter of 2011's blowout (relatively speaking) 4.1 percent.

Bear in mind that although we're mired in what I call "stuckflation," the economy hasn't tipped into recession. And as the Wall Street Journal points out, we've have 12 consecutive quarters of positive — if mostly weak — GDP growth. Silver lining of a black cloud? Perhaps. But for now, a sign that the U.S. economy hasn't ground to halt. 

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