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Thoughts From Last Week
Real GDP fell 0.9% in 2Q, marking the U.S. economy’s second straight quarter of decline. Weakness was broad-based with slowdowns in inventory rebuilding, residential and non-residential construction and capital spending. This was marginally offset by gains in consumer spending and trade; however, with higher inflation eroding Americans’ purchasing power, higher mortgage rates slowing down the housing market and a higher USD hurting exports, growth is likely to stay subdued this year.
While two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth may lead some to jump to the term “recession”, some are not there yet according to the definition used by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the de facto scorekeepers of U.S. recessions. NBER’s definition is much broader, encompassing declines in employment, industrial production, household income and trade. Take employment as the prime example here. In 2Q, we saw average nonfarm payroll growth of 375K/month while the unemployment rate held at 3.6%. This strong of a labor market seems to contradict NBER’s definition. However, it will be important to monitor the labor market in 2H22 to look for any signs of deterioration and the possible start of a recession.
While the gloomy GDP print will reinforce pessimism concerning the health of the U.S. economy, it does present a slight silver lining. The growth slowdown in 1H22 shows that the Fed’s aggressive hiking cycle is delivering on its intended consequences – higher rates are slowing demand and growth, which should help alleviate some inflationary pressure in 2H22.
Source: BEA, J.P. Morgan Asset Management.