The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported today that gross domestic product (GDP), the most comprehensive measure of economic activity, grew at just a 0.7 percent annualized rate in the first three months of 2017, the slowest quarterly growth rate reported since the first three months of 2014.
The economy’s weakness in the first quarter of 2017 was broad-based: personal consumption spending, business investment, and both federal and state/local spending decelerated significantly relative to the previous quarter. Auto vehicles and parts sales contracted and knocked 0.45 percentage points off of the quarter’s growth rate. Federal, state, and local spending also contracted, knocking a combined 0.3 percentage points off of the quarter’s growth rate—and further emphasizing how large a drag fiscal policymaking decisions have put on the economy in recent years.
Finally, today’s report confirms that inflation remains well under the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent long-run target. The year-over-year change in the price deflator for personal consumption expenditures excluding food and energy was just 1.6 percent.
Between the broad-based economic weakness and continued below-target inflation, today’s report provides a powerful signal that the Federal Reserve should not raise rates in the next Federal Open Market Committee meeting.