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In this week’s chart of the week, we look at the estimated growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — the value of all goods and services produced across the economy — for the third quarter of 2020. GDP increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 33.1% according to the “advance“ estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This increase is the largest on record, following a record decline (-31.4%) in the second quarter as COVID-19 severely disrupted business activity across the country. The increase was driven by increases in personal consumption expenditures, private inventory investment, exports, nonresidential fixed investment, and residential fixed investment; detractors were decreases in federal, state, and local government spending. The actual quarter-on-quarter rate of expansion, without annualization, was 7.4%.
Economists expect the economy to expand throughout the fourth quarter though much more slowly compared to the third quarter. Rising COVID-19 cases across certain parts of the country could plunge the economy into turmoil again if states are forced to put tighter restrictions back in place, likely slowing consumption and ultimately, GDP growth. Mitigating factors to these trends are potential vaccine approval and distribution, as well as additional stimulus from the U.S. government. Fourth quarter GDP will undoubtedly hinge on how these themes play out and bear watching over the coming months.
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