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July 31, 2013 9:41 AM 2d Quarter GDP: Eye of the Beholder

By Ed Kilgore

So the Commerce Department’s estimate of real (constant dollar) GDP growth in the second quarter of this year came in at an annualized rate of 1.7%, well above the consensus prediction of 0.9%. But the first quarter estimate, originally pegged at 1.8%, was revised downward to 1.1%. So for the first half of the year, real GDP growth is at 1.4%. As Brad DeLong understatedly puts it, this is far below the economy’s growth potential.

By and large, the reaction to the numbers seems to be positive (Republican spinners will change that perception very soon), showing again that short-term and theoretically predictive trends are more important to many economists than the big picture. We’ll know, or think we know, a lot more on Friday, when the July jobs report comes out. For opinion-leaders to be happy, the jobs numbers will need to thread the needle, confirming the recent trend of modest but steady jobs growth but not showing the kind of reductions in unemployment that could signal an imminent end to the Fed’s bond-buying program, which as we know is the main fear in Marketland these days.

You know, one way the president could decide on the next Fed chairman is to lock the candidates in the White House basement for a week and have them react to economic data before a focus group of “investors.” Whoever didn’t panic them would be the front-runner.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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