The United States economy regained traction strongly in the last three months of 2021, in a year marked by the strongest growth since 1984, which confirms the full recovery of activity after the pandemic. Despite the slowdown suffered in the third quarter due to the impact of the delta variant and the global jam in the supply chains, the good performance of the economy in the last stretch of 2021 underpins the decision of the Federal Reserve to tighten its monetary policy in March. For the year as a whole, the economy grew by 5.7%, a particularly noteworthy figure when compared to the 3.4% contraction in 2020, which had been the biggest drop in 74 years.
In the last quarter of the year the economy grew by 1.7%. In annualized terms, it did 6.9%, almost triple that in the third quarter (2.3%). The acceleration in the last part of the year was motivated by a rebound in exports, as well as by the replacement and investment in inventories and sustained consumer spending. In the fourth quarter, cases of covid-19 caused restrictions and interruptions in the activity of businesses and businesses in parts of the country, according to the first estimates of the Office of Economic Analysis of the Government (BEA, for its acronym in English). The economic recovery is due to increases in household spending, business investment, exports, strong investment in the real estate market and spending on inventories, according to the BEA.
During that same period, stimulus programs from the federal government in the form of loans to companies, unemployment subsidies and aid checks for families, provided for in the rescue plan approved in March by Congress, concluded. During 2021, the labor market recovered almost 19 million of the 22 million jobs lost due to the closure of economic activity in 2020.
If the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had already cooled the growth prospects for 2022, lowering the forecast for the US by 1.2 points (4%, instead of the 5.2% calculated last October), the data from the GDP for the last quarter is the best news after the slowdown in growth in the penultimate quarter of the year, after the growth registered in the first (6.4% annualized) and the second quarter of the year (6.7%). The slowdown in GDP in the third quarter was caused by a contraction in consumer spending. A resurgence of covid-19 cases led to new restrictions and delays in the reopening of establishments in some parts of the country.
Due to the increase in imports to satisfy domestic demand, in December the US trade deficit broke the barrier of 100,000 million dollars, with a negative balance of 101,000 million (89,360 million euros), which represents an increase of 3% compared to the negative balance registered the previous month and 20.4% in a year, according to data published this Wednesday by the Department of Commerce. However, massive imports helped to replenish stocks in retail and wholesale trade, with increases of 4.4% and 2.1%, respectively. The solid accumulation of inventory has been able to offset the impact on GDP of the trade gap and contributed to raising growth for the last quarter of 2021, according to experts, who forecast an increase in the last quarter of around 5.5%.
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