GDP forecast for 3rd quarter: 2.5%
This, after a 0.7% figure for the second quarter. Some analysts are expecting that second quarter number to be adjusted upward.
Forecasters expect that when the Commerce Department releases its first estimate of the number, gross domestic product will have risen at a 2.5 percent annual rate in the third quarter. That would be the highest growth rate in a year and would trump the 0.7 percent average pace over the first half of this year.
There is reason to think that the earlier rate overstated the weakness of the U.S. economy and that a higher third-quarter number could be a rebound effect. Auto production ramped up in the third quarter, for example, as the supply chains that were disrupted by the Japanese earthquake in the spring reopened. And trade data got a boost from the lower price of imported oil.
Still, the 2.5 percent expectation reflects an economy that, for all its challenges, doesn't appear to be falling off a cliff. Although it shows the diminished economic expectations of the post-crisis age, it implies that the economy is growing only about as fast as it is capable of in the longer term. But it's not fast enough to claw out of the deep hole of 9 percent unemployment. In other words, even the best quarter for gains in a year - and one that benefited from some one-time factors - isn't strong enough to bring down unemployment meaningfully, even if it were sustained.
It's a helluva thing when the best that can be said about a GDP forecast is that it shows that the economy "doesn't appear to be falling off a cliff."
With Europe appearing to reach a tentative deal on Greek debt and bank recapitalization, we may yet avoid a double dipper recession. That's still not good news for the millions still seeking work, or too discouraged to even try.