With the unemployment rate below 4 percent for 16 consecutive months, one would expect economic growth to be soaring. Yet even as we experience the best job market since the late 1960s, this is the first time in modern history that we have not experienced a year of 3 percent GDP growth. What gives?
Earlier today, the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that the economy had grown just 2.1 percent during the second quarter of this year (ending June 30). It also revised Q4 of 2018 down to just 1.1 percent, which now means that growth during the 12 months ending Q4 of 2018 was only 2.5 percent, not 3 percent as previously thought. This means that the U.S. economy has now gone 14 years without a year-over-year growth of 3 percent. It’s been 19 years since we’ve hit 4 percent, which was during 1997-2000.
While the numbers don’t portend a coming recession, it is highly unusual for us to go for 16 consecutive months with unemployment below 4 percent and 43 months below 5 percent, yet never attain 3 or 4 percent annual GDP growth. In fact, that has never happened before. During the late 1990s, the unemployment rate ranged from 5.3 percent to 3.9 percent – not even as good as today’s 3.7 percent – yet GDP growth was over 4 percent. Ditto for the late 1960s, when we saw years of 6 percent growth. During the mid 1980s, we saw this growth even with higher unemployment rates.
The debt is not just a problem for future generations in terms of a fiscal cost that will be borne by taxpayers. The exclusive focus on the future is what has fostered the Louis XV mentality of “after me, the deluge.” Let’s face it, we are a nation that doesn’t care about the future of our children. What is missing from the discussion is that the debt is permanently weighing down economic growth now.