US economy: statistics at a glance

US economy: statistics at a glance

The FT’s one-stop overview of key US economic data and trends, including GDP, inflation, unemployment, consumer indicators, and the outlook for US interest rates and mortgage rates

GDP growth

The US recorded its slowest economic growth in five years in 2016, as poor trade data dragged on the economy in the fourth quarter.

The recovery remains steady, rather than spectacular.

Annualised Q1 2017 GDP growth
1.4%

Growth rates

A robust jobs market and still rising house prices are providing the ballast for an economy that is facing poor trade data, weaker growth overseas and retrenchment in the once booming oil industry.

Size of the economy

While the US economy returned to its pre-recession size in 2011, three years ahead of the UK, the pace of acceleration has been slower than in previous recoveries.

Growth per head

Where is the US going?

The US economy is expected to continue growing steadily over the next few years, outpacing many other western countries.

About the nowcast
now-casting.com uses statistical modelling to determine what individual economic data points tell us about the rate of growth. The nowcast chart (right) shows the model’s evolving prediction of GDP growth in the current quarter.

Current Q2 2017 nowcast
2.4%

Prediction for Q2

Economists' forecasts

Official forecasts show steady growth this year, before slowing slightly in subsequent years.

International context

The UK was the fastest growing G7 economy in 2016 and growth in the Eurozone also surpassed that in the US. But the US is forecast to be the fastest growing major advanced economy this year.

Read more
Eurozone economy quietly outshines the US

Markets

Movements in the bond and currency markets are a barometer of investor expectations about a country’s economic prospects.

Since the most recent US election, the bond market has reflected a consensus that the US economy faces an inauspicious future of lacklustre growth and muted inflationary pressures.

Bonds

Treasury bond prices have fallen sharply since Donald Trump’s election, driving benchmark yields to multiyear highs. Yields above 2.6 per cent mark the start of a secular bear market, according to Janus bond manager Bill Gross.

Euro rate

The dollar remains buoyant against most major currencies.

Dollar strength

As the world’s reserve currency, a stronger dollar presents problems for many financial markets, from foreign holders of government debt facing higher repayments to producers of commodities that are priced in dollars.

Labour market

The strengthening jobs market has been core to the Federal Reserve’s debates on whether to raise interest rates.
As the economy approaches full employment, officials believe wage growth will start getting driven up and that inflation could accelerate above the central bank’s 2 per cent target, arguing for rates to be lifted further.

Change in non-farm payrolls in June
222k
Unemployment rate in June
4.4%

Non-farm payrolls

Proportion out of work

Pay

US job growth and employment have been strong, while wages have seen only small growth. This suggests there may still be some slack in the labour force.

Productivity

A measure of how much economic output is generated for a unit of input, rising productivity is seen as one of the only ways to improve living standards, at a time when advanced and some emerging economies are seeing ageing populations and a rapidly increasing retirement rate.

Growth in the US though, along with many other western economies, has been alarmingly slow since the financial crisis.

Across the economy

Since the economic crisis, productivity has risen only very slowly in the US. Economists disagree on the reasons, with explanations ranging from investment being too low, to the boon from the tech revolution dissipating to innovations not being measured correctly.

Per hour

While there have been some recent patchy signals of productivity improvements, there is not yet a solid direction of travel. Policymakers have warned America’s prospects for much higher wage growth may be held back by the country’s poor productivity performance.

Inflation

The Federal Reserve looks closely at its inflation target of 2 per cent, using it as a metric policymakers must feel ‘reasonably confident’ about before raising interest rates.

Consumer inflation in June
1.6%
Core inflation in May
1.39%

Consumer price inflation

CPI, the headline inflation reading, measures the weighted average price of a basket of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food and medical costs.

Core inflation

Core inflation, which strips out the impact of food and fuel, is the metric most closely watched by policymakers to gauge whether domestic price pressures are increasing.

Interest rates

A stronger economy has given the Federal Reserve cover this year to accelerate its pace of interest rate increases. Prior to 2017, the Fed had increased rates only twice over the course of two years.

Federal funds target rate
1.25%
Average 30-yr prime mortgage rate
4.01%

Effective interest rates

Rates have been at rock-bottom levels since the financial crisis. While they are starting to rise, on the Federal Reserve’s own projections they will not return to pre-crisis levels in the foreseeable future. The effective rate is the average of what banks are actually paying each other, hence the fluctuations in the graph.

Mortgage costs

Although rates have see-sawed on previous turmoil in the financial markets, long-term mortgage rates, which are far more common in the US than many other countries, are still relatively low in historic terms.

Consumers

As the labour market has strengthened, so has US consumer spending. Wage growth has remained subdued, however. There are few signs of runaway spending growth, with consumers staying in a cautious mood.

Annual change in retail sales in June
2.8%

Consumer spending

One question that has perplexed policymakers is the apparent reluctance of US consumers to spend the savings from the oil price fall. Sales however have firmed in recent months, suggesting some of that hesitancy is dissipating.

Read more
US consumer spending rises by most in 7 years

Consumer confidence

Confidence among US consumers remains comfortably higher than in recent years. The metric jumped even further following the US election.

Home sales

Sales of new homes have rebounded in recent months as the housing market regains some steam as solid jobs growth gives more people the means to buy. However the volumes sold remain substantially lower than seen pre-crisis.