Friday, February 27th, 2009
The U.S. economy shrank in the fourth quarter at an even faster pace than previously estimated as consumer spending plunged, companies cut inventories and exports sank.
Gross domestic product contracted at a 6.2 percent annual pace from October through December, more than economists anticipated and the most since 1982, according to revised figures from the Commerce Department today in Washington. Consumer spending, which comprises about 70 percent of the economy, declined at the fastest pace in almost three decades.
The recession is forecast to persist at least through the first half of this year as job losses mount and purchases plummet. The Obama administration’s attempts to break the grip of the worst financial crisis in 70 years are unlikely to bring immediate relief as companies from General Motors Corp. to JPMorgan Chase & Co. cut payrolls.
“The economy really hit the brakes very hard in the fourth quarter,” John Herrmann, president of Herrmann Forecasting LLC in Summit, New Jersey, said before the report. “We’re in a pretty severe, protracted recession. The economy could continue to struggle into 2010.”
GDP was projected to contract at a 5.4 percent annual pace last quarter, according to the median estimate of 74 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Forecasts ranged from declines of 3.8 percent to 6 percent.
The 2.4 percentage-point revision was almost five times as large as the average adjustment, Commerce said.