Today, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released its advanced estimate for Gross Domestic Product for the 4th quarter of 2011. As expected, GDP grew again (by 2.8%), marking the tenth straight quarter of growth.
While GDP growth is a good indicator that The Great Recession is finally over, other measures, such as the number of mass layoffs, have been mixed. In December 2011, there were 1,384 mass layoff events (an increase of 52 events over November 2011) affecting 145,648 workers. However, the annual numbers for 2011 as a whole show a more positive story, with the lowest number of events (18,521) since 2007. Similarly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that median weekly earnings for full-time workers increased during the fourth quarter of 2011 by 1.6% over the same period in 2010 (a positive sign), but in urban areas, this increase was not enough to keep up with the inflation rate of 3.3% during the fourth quarter of 2011 (a not so positive sign).
So where does this leave us? Unfortunately, eschewing speculation and using only facts, it is hard to say as our table below shows.
Next week, BLS will be reporting January 2012 unemployment rates and BEA will be reporting December 2011 personal income and outlays. These are two additional important measures of the economy that can help us better understand whether there is cause for celebration. We will be watching them so we can provide our readers with more facts on whether the economy is indeed improving.