U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) decreased at an annual rate of 4.8% in the first quarter of 2020, reversing a 2.1% expansion in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to the advance estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on Wednesday, April 29.
This marked the first contraction since the 1.1% decline in the first quarter of 2014 and the lowest level since the 8.4% plunge in the fourth quarter of 2008 during one of the worst of the financial crises, according to CNBC.
The bureau said in a press release that the negative growth in the first quarter was, in part, due to the response to the spread of the CCP Virus (coronavirus) as governments issued stay-at-home orders in March. This led to rapid changes in demand, as businesses and schools switched to remote work or canceled operations, and consumers canceled, restricted, or redirected their spending.
The full economic effects of the virus pandemic cannot be quantified in the GDP estimate for the first quarter because the impacts are generally embedded in source data and cannot be separately identified, the bureau said.
The decrease in GDP reflected negative contributions from consumer spending, nonresidential fixed investment, exports, and private inventory investment that were partly offset by positive contributions from residential fixed investment, federal government spending, and state and local government spending.
Consumer expenditures, which composes 67% of total GDP, plunged 7.6% in the first quarter as all nonessential stores were closed and the cornerstone of the U.S. economy was almost completely out of commission. Durable goods spending tumbled 16.1% while expenditures on services were down 10.2%.
Exports dropped 8.7% while imports fell 15.3%, including a 30% drop in services.
Goods consumption fell 1.3% while services slumped 10.2% in the January-March period from a year earlier.
Meanwhile, residential fixed investment jumped 21%, and federal spending was up 1.7%.
Calculated in current dollar, U.S. GDP decreased $191.2 billion in the first quarter to $21.54 trillion.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis said the “second” estimate for the first quarter, based on more complete data, will be released on May 28.