2009 GDP Statistics, Growth, and Updates by Quarter

The Recession Officially Ends

••• The economy started to grow again in 2009. Photo: Don Bishop/Getty Images

In 2009, gross domestic product was $14.418 trillion. Growth was down 2.8 percent for the year. However, it began improving in the third quarter. That followed four quarters of decline during the Great Recession. 

How Estimates of 2009 GDP Changed

Here are the most recent GDP estimates for each quarter in 2009 (with the prior estimates in parentheses):

2009: $13.939 trillion in 2011 and $14.119 trillion in 2010

  • Q1: $14.375 trillion ($14.381 trillion in 2013 revision, $13.893 trillion in 2011 revision, $14.049 trillion in 2010).
  • Q2: $14.356 trillion ($14.342 trillion in 2013 revision, $13.854 trillion in 2011, $14.034 trillion in 2010).
  • Q3: 14.402 trillion ($14.384 trillion in 2013 revision, $13.920 trillion in 2011, $14.114 trillion in 2010)
  • Q4: $14.542 trillion ($14.564 trillion in 2013 revision, $14.087 trillion in 2011, $14.277 trillion in 2010).

In 2009, the GDP growth rate was -2.8 percent. In other words, the economy contracted 2.8 percent. This measures the changes in real GDP from quarter to quarter.

The ideal GDP growth rate is between 2-3 percent. Less than 2 percent will not create new jobs for the growing labor force. More than 3 percent means the economy is headed toward an asset bubble. This generally creates inflation and rising prices. Sometimes higher prices will cool off demand. More often, the bubble bursts, and the economy descends into recession.

At that point, the economy contracts, and the GDP growth rate turns negative. Most estimates of economic production are nominal GDP. However, it's important to take out the effects of price increases, which is done in real GDP. Growth rates use real GDP to compare growth from one quarter to the next.


Here's GDP growth by quarter, and an explanation of what happened.

2009 GDP for the Year: -2.8% (2012 revision was -3.1%, 2011 was -3.5%, 2010 was -2.9%. Original estimate was -2.4%)

Q1: -5.4% (2012 revision was -5.3%, 2011 was -6.7%, 2010 revision was -4.9%, 2009 revision was -6.4%)

  • Advance - The economy fell 6.1%, partly due to leaner inventories. The was the third declining quarter in a row, and the fourth since the recession began in Q4 2007. The slowdown in Q1 was only slightly less than the 6.3% drop in Q4 2008. This is the first time since the Great Depression that GDP fell more than 5% for two quarters in a row. The (very faint) silver lining is that a large contributor to the decline was a decrease of business inventories. This means that inventories are getting lean, potentially boosting production next quarter if orders hold steady. The decrease of business inventory contributed 2.79 points to the Q1 decline and .11 in Q4. When inventories are taken out of the calculations, Q1 GDP fell 3.4% compared to 6.2% in Q4 2008. However, the near-bankruptcy of the U.S. auto industry contributed 1.36 percentage points to the Q1 decline and 2.01 points to the Q4 2008 decline. Another contributor was the fall-off in commercial construction.
  • Second - The economy contracted 5.7% in Q1. The slump in U.S. car sales contributed 1.36 percentage points to the Q1 decline and 2.01 points to the Q4 2008 decline. Another contributor was the fall-off in commercial construction.
  • Third - Growth was down 5.5%. The economy contracted more than 5% for two quarters in a row, the first time since the Great Depression.

Q2: -0.5% (2013 revision was -0.4%, 2012 revision was -.03%, 2011 revision kept it at -.7%)

  • Advance - Government spending propped up the economy, which contracted 1% -- the fourth contraction in a row and the fifth since the recession started in 2007. U.S. car sales are improving, and will further improve in Q3 with the Cash for Clunkers program. Government stimulus is propping up the economy and keeping this recession from turning into a depression. However, a return to normal bank lending is needed for a full recovery.
  • Second - In a very unusual move, the BEA did not adjust its estimate, which remained at -1%. The slump would have been much worse without the Economic Stimulus Program. Government spending contributed 1.25% to GDP growth, according to Econompic.
  • Third - The economy declined .7% in Q2 2009.

Q3: 1.3% (2012 revision was 1.4%, 2011 was 1.7%)

  • Advance - The economy grew 3.5%, which meant that technically the recession was over. The Economic Stimulus Package, which was approved in March 2009, stimulated the economy enough to pull it out of recession in Q3.
  • Second - Growth was revised down to 2.8%. More data came in over the last month, which showed that commercial real estate and personal spending wasn't as strong as initially estimated.
  • Third - Growth was revised down to 2.2%.

Q4: 3.9% (2012 revision was 4%, 2011 was 3.8%, 2010 was 5%)

  • Advance - The economy grew 5.7%, but half of that growth was based on businesses re-stocking low inventory. The economy would have only grown 2.3% without the inventory adjustment, according to econo-blogger Calculated Risk. Real estate and consumer spending actually slowed in Q4. These are needed to sustain any lasting recovery.
  • Second - Economic growth was revised up to 5.9%, but businesses re-stocking low inventory drove 4 points of that growth.  Econo-blogger Calculated Risk pointed out that:
    Changes in private inventories are transitory (only lasts a few quarters at the start of a recovery), and although the headline number was revised up, final demand was weaker than in the advance estimate.
    He goes on to note that spending on personal consumption and residential investment were both revised down in Q4.
  • Third - The report said 5.6% growth, but after taking out restocking of low inventory, the real number was 1.8%.

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