The Commerce Department on Wednesday put some of the blame for the nation's weak economic growth in early 2015 on a villain it has blamed before: the weather.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis said U.S. gross domestic product grew just 0.2 percent, the lowest it's been since a year earlier, when the economy contracted. In both cases, the agency blamed the weather as a factor.
"In the first quarter, the dollar strengthened against major currencies, imports and exports were delayed because of labor disputes in key ports, energy prices declined, and several regions experienced severe weather," the agency said.
The bad weather factor is usually associated with a drop in consumer spending. In the first quarter, consumer spending did increase, but by a paltry 0.2 percent from the 2.2 percent seen in the prior quarter.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis said the trade deficit increased, business investment fell, and spending by state and local governments fell as well.
Almost exactly a year ago, it reported a 0.1 percent GDP increase in the first quarter of 2014. By May 2014, that was revised down to a 1.0 percent decline.
Neither releases made any mention of the weather, but by July, the agency was arguing that weather was a factor.
"The economy's downturn in the first quarter was widespread, with 19 of 22 major industry groups contributing to the drop in U.S. economic activity, the new BEA data show," it said. "Some of the leading contributors to the downturn included industries that were impacted by the unusually harsh winter weather that hit most of the United States, including agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting."
Republicans have downplayed the weather as an excuse, and have said the modest recovery from the Great Recession seen over the last several years is more likely due to the rising national debt and overregulation by the Obama administration.