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U.S. GDP by Year

GDP History Compared to Debt, Recessions and Other Major Events

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Two unemployed men walking towards Los Angeles, California to find work.

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The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) provides the U.S. GDP history for each quarter since 1929. It begins with the stock market crash of 1929, and goes through the subsequent Great Depression, five wars including a World War, and several serious recessions. These extreme swings in the business cycle puts today's crises in perspective. Comparing GDP by year to fiscal and monetary policies provides a complete picture of what works and what doesn't.

Keep in mind when reviewing this history that the BEA measures GDP in two ways. Nominal GDP is the raw number that describes total U.S. economic output for that year. Real GDP takes out the effect of inflation. It's used to calculate the GDP growth rate and GDP per capita. Nominal GDP is used to compare GDP to the U.S. debt, which is also not adjusted for inflation. To see the debt to GDP ratio since 1929, go to National Debt by Year. Article updated February 5, 2014

Resources for Table

U.S. GDP by Year Since 1929 Compared to Major Events

Year GDP Growth Rate Nominal GDP (in billions) GDP per Capita Event
1929 NA $104.6 NA Hoover became President. His high wage controls combined with the Fed's high interest rates (to defend gold standard) forces more businesses to go bankrupt. Stock market crashed in October.
1930 -8.5% $92.2 NA Congress passed Smoot-Hawley Tariffs, restricting global trade. Prices fall 6.4%.
1931 -6.4% $77.4 NA Dust Bowl drought begins. Prices fall 9.3%
1932 -12.9% $59.5 NA Hoover raised taxes to balance budget, worsening Depression. Prices fall 10.3%.
1933 -1.3% $57.2 NA Unemployment hit 25%. Roosevelt became President. New Deal created FDIC, FHA and Social Security. Glass-Steagall passed. Prohibition repealed. Inflation at .8%.
1934 10.8% $66.8 NA World trade dropped 66% since 1930. U.S. prices rise 1.5%.
1935 8.9% $74.3 NA Social Security enacted. Soil Conservation Act began restoring Dust Bowl. Inflation at 3%.
1936 12.9% $84.9 NA Inflation at 1.4%.
1937 5.1% $93.0 NA Inflation at 2.9%.
1938 -3.3% $87.4 NA Prices fall 2.8%.
1939 8.0% $93.5 NA Dust Bowl drought ended.
1940 8.8% $102.9 NA Selective Service Act signed. First Social Security checks paid. PA and LA highways open.
1941 17.7% $129.4 NA Attack on Pearl Harbor forced US into WWII, ending Depression. Inflation at 9.9%.
1942 18.9% $166.0 NA Inflation at 9%.
1943 17.0% $203.1 NA Prices rise 3%.
1944 8.0% $224.6 NA Bretton-Woods Agreement established U.S. dollar as a global currency and launched World Bank and IMF. Inflation rate 2.3%.
1945 -1.0% $228.2 NA End of WWII caused 1945 recession. Truman became President.
1946 -11.6% $227.8 NA Inflation at 18.1%.
1947 -1.1% $249.9 NA Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine. Cold War began. Inflation at 8.8%.
1948 4.1% $274.8 NA Berlin airlift.
1949 -0.5% $272.8 NA Recession began. NATO established. Communists took over China. Prices fall 2.1%.
1950 8.7% $300.2 NA U.S. entered Korean War.
1951 8.1% $347.3 NA Inflation at 6%.
1952 4.1% $367.7 NA  
1953 4.7% $389.7 NA Eisenhower became President. Korean War ended.
1954 -0.6% $391.1 NA The Dow finally got back to its pre-Depression level. Recession began. Fed kept rate around 1%. Prices fall .7%.
1955 7.1% $426.2 NA Supreme Court ordered school desegregation. Fed raised rate to 2.48%.
1956 2.1% $450.1 NA Inflation at 3%.
1957 2.1% $474.9 NA Fed raised rate to 3%.
1958 -0.7% $482.0 NA GDP plummeted 10.4% in Q1. Unemployment at 7.1%. Fed lowered rate to .63%.
1959 6.9% $522.5 NA Alaska and Hawaii became states. Fed raised rate to 4%.
1960 2.6% $543.3 $17,747 1960 recession started. GDP fell 4.2% in Q4. Fed lowered rate to 1.98%.
1961 2.6% $563.3 $17,862 Unemployment hit 6.1%. JFK became President. Bay of Pigs invasion. Berlin Wall erected.
1962 6.1% $605.1 $18,655 Cuban Missile Crisis.
1963 4.4% $638.6 $19,192 JFK assassinated. LBJ became President. Fed raised rate to 3.5%.
1964 5.8% $685.8 $20,023 Fed raised rate to 3.85%.
1965 6.5% $743.7 $21,044 U.S. entered Vietnam War. Fed raised rate to 4.32%.
1966 6.6% $815.0 $22,158 Fed raised rate to 5.76% to fight 3.5% inflation.
1967 2.7% $861.7 $22,472 Inflation at 3%.
1968 4.9% $942.5 $23,326 Fed raised rate to 6% to fight 4.7% inflation.
1969 3.1% $1,019.9 $23,816 Nixon became President. ARPANET created. Man landed on the moon. Fed raised rate to 9.19% to fight 6.2% inflation.
1970 0.2% $1,075.9 $23,585 Recession. GDP plummeted 4.2% in Q4. Nixon bombed Cambodia. Fed lowered rate to 4.9% to fight recession even though inflation was at 5.6%.
1971 3.3% $1,167.8 $24,071 Unemployment peaked at 6.1%. Fed lowered rate to 3.5%, then raised it to 5%. Inflation at 3.3%.
1972 5.2% $1,282.4 $25,080 Inflation at 3.4%.
1973 5.6% $1,428.5 $26,281 OPEC oil embargo. Nixon took dollar off gold standard, tripling inflation to 8.7%. Fed doubled rate to 11%. U.S. withdrew from Vietnam. Nixon resigned over Watergate.
1974 -0.5% $1,548.8 $25,898 Wage-price controls had created stagflation. Ford became President. Fed raised rate to 13% to fight 12.3% inflation.
1975 -0.2% $1,688.9 $25,590 GDP fell 4.8% in Q1, unemployment peaked at 9%. Fed lowered rate to 7.5% despite 6.9% inflation.
1976 5.4% $1,877.6 $26,707 Fed lowered rate to 4.75%. Inflation at 4.9%.
1977 4.6% $2,086.0 $27,656 Carter became President. Inflation at 6.7%.
1978 5.6% $2,356.6 $28,891 Fed raised rate to 10% to fight 9% inflation.
1979 3.2% $2,632.1 $29,467 Fed raised rate to 15.5% to fight 13.3% inflation, then lowered it to 12% confusing price-setters. Iran hostage crisis. Three Mile Island disaster ends further nuclear construction in U.S.
1980 -0.2% $2,862.5 $29,041 Fed raised rate to 20%. GDP dropped 7.9% in Q2. Fed lowered rate to 10% by August to boost economy, then raised it to 20% to fight 12.5% inflation. Iran oil embargo.
1981 2.6% $3,210.9 $29,488 Reagan became President. Fed lowered rate to 12%. Inflation at 8.9%.
1982 -1.9% $3,345.0 $28,638 To combat 1982 recession, the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act was passed, removing restrictions on loan-to-value ratios for Savings and Loan banks, while budget cuts reduced bank regulatory staff. Fed lowered rate to 8.5% since inflation was a moderate (in those days) 3.8%.
1983 4.6% $3,638.1 $29,662 Unemployment was 10.8%. Reagan proposed Star Wars and increased military spending.
1984 7.3% $4,040.7 $31,519  
1985 4.2% $4,346.7 $32,531  
1986 3.5% $4,590.1 $33,353 Reagan cut taxes. Chernobyl nuclear accident.
1987 3.5% $4,870.2 $34,114 Black Monday stock market crash. Inflation at 4.4%.
1988 4.2% $5,252.6 $35,196 Fed raised rate to 9.75% to combat 4.4% inflation.
1989 3.7% $5,657.7 $36,111 Bush 41 became President. Exxon Valdez oil spill. Invasion of Panama. 1989 Savings and Loan Crisis caused recession. Berlin Wall fell. Fed lowered rate to 8.25% to fight recession, even though inflation was still 4.6%.
1990 1.9% $5,979.6 $36,378 Iraq invaded Kuwait. Dow fell 18% in 3 months. Inflation rose to 6.1%.
1991 -0.1% $6,174.0 $35,812 Desert Storm. 1991 recession. Breakup of Soviet Union. Fed lowered rate to 4%.
1992 3.6% $6,539.3 $36,537 Fed lowered rate to 3%.
1993 2.7% $6,878.7 $37,094 Clinton became President. NAFTA and European Union signed into law. World Trade Center bombed.
1994 4.0% $7,308.7 $38,139  
1995 2.7% $7,664.0 $38,640 Fed raised rate to 6%. Inflation a moderate 2.5%.
1996 3.8% $8,100.2 $39,623 Inflation at 3.3%.
1997 4.5% $8,608.5 $40,897 Thailand cut its dollar peg. Speculators sold all Asian currencies.
1998 4.4% $9,089.1 $42,183 Russia debt default. Long Term Capital Management hedge fund nearly collapsed. Fed lowered rate to 4.75%.
1999 4.8% $9,665.7 $43,716 Y2K scare. Budget surplus. Euro created. Glass-Steagall repealed. Fed raised rate to 5.5%.
2000 4.1% $10,289.7 $45,026 Tech bubble burst. Fed raised rate to 6.5% to fight 3.4% inflation.
2001 1.0% $10,625.3 $45,046 Bush 43 became President. Recession worsened by 9/11 attacks and War on Terror, but helped by Bush tax cuts. Fed started lowering rates.
2002 1.8% $10,980.2 $45,418 Bush calls for regime change in Iraq, creates Homeland Security.
2003 2.8% $11,512.2 $46,137 Unemployment at 6%. Fed lowered rate to 1%. Iraq War began.
2004 3.8% $12,277.0 $47,307 Fed started raising rates.
2005 3.4% $13,095.4 $48,312 Hurricane Katrina cost $250 billion in damage.
2006 2.7% $13,857.9 $49,130 Fed funds rate raised to 6.75%. Swine flu epidemic.
2007 1.8% $14,480.3 $49,571 Dow reached new high of 14,164.43. Inflation at 4.1%. Fed dropped rate 3 times, to 4.25%, to ease banking liquidity crisis. LIBOR rose to 5.6%.
2008 -0.3% $14,720.3 $48,951 Stock market crash of 2008 led to global financial crisis and $350 billion spent on bank bailout bill. Fed lowered rate 7 times to 0%. See 2008 GDP by quarter.
2009 -2.8% $14,417.9 $47,041 Obama became President. Dow dropped to 6,594.44. Obama Stimulus Act spent $400 billion, reversed downward spiral. See 2009 GDP by quarter.
2010 2.5% $14,958.3 $47,772 BP oil spill. Bush tax cuts extended. Obamacare and Dodd-Frank passed. See 2010 GDP by quarter.
2011 1.8% $15,533.8 $48,282 Japan earthquake and Mississippi River floods. 10-year Treasury yield hit 200-year low. Iraq War ended.
2012 2.8% $16,244.6 $49,800 Presidential campaign and fiscal cliff created business uncertainty. Superstorm Sandy hit East Coast. See U.S. Economy 2012
2013 1.9% $16,803.0 NA Slow growth thanks to sequestration. Low nominal GDP growth thanks to low inflation.

 

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