U.S. GDP by Year Compared to Recessions and Major Events

The Strange Ups and Downs of the U.S. Economy Since 1929

people walking down the street during the Depression
GDP got hammered during the Great Depression. Two unemployed men walking towards Los Angeles, California to find work. Dorothea Lange/Getty Images

U.S. GDP by year provides the nation's gross domestic product for each quarter since 1929.  It begins with the stock market crash of 1929 and goes through the subsequent Great Depression. It includes five wars including a World War, and several serious recessions. The Bureau of Economic Analysis compiles the data.

These extreme swings in the business cycle puts today's crises in perspective. Compare GDP by year to fiscal and monetary policies to get 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 total U.S. economic output for that year. Real GDP takes out the effect of inflation. The BEA uses it to calculate the GDP growth rate and GDP per capita. Experts use nominal GDP to compare GDP to the U.S. debt. It, too, is not adjusted for inflation. To see the debt to GDP ratio since 1929, go to National Debt by Year

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

Year GDP Growth RateReal GDP (trillions)Nominal GDP (trillions)GDP per CapitaInflation
1929NA$1.057$.105NA0.6%
1930-8.5%$.967$.092NA-6.4%
1931-6.4%$.905$.077NA-9.3%
1932-12.9%$.788$.060NA-10.3%
1933-1.3%$.778$.057NA0.8%
193410.8%$.862$.067NA1.5%
19358.9%$.939$.074NA3.0%
193612.9%$1.061$.085NA1.4%
19375.1%$1.115$.093NA2.9%
1938-3.3%$1.078$.087NA-2.8%
19398.0%$1.164$.094NA0.0%
19408.8%$1.266$.103NA0.7%
194117.7%$1.490$.129NA9.9%
194218.9%$1.772$.166NA9.0%
194317.0%$2.074$.203NA3.0%
19448.0%$2.239$.225NA2.3%
1945-1.0%$2.218$.228NA2.2%
1946-11.6%$1.961$.228$13,51318.1%
1947-1.1%$1.939$.250$13,6498.8%
19484.1%$2.020$.275$13,5373.0%
1949-0.5%$2.009$.273$13,819-2.1%
19508.7%$2.184$.300$15,0295.9%
19518.1%$2.360$.347$15,5326.0%
19524.1%$2.456$.368$16,2210.8%
19534.7%$2.571$.390$15,6640.7%
1954-0.6%$2.557$.391$16,338-0.7%
19557.1%$2.739$.426$16,5680.4%
19562.1%$2.797$.450$16,7703.0%
19572.1%$2.856$.475$16,0162.9%
1958-0.7%$2.835$.482$16,9081.8%
19596.9%$3.031$.523$17,3801.7%
19602.6%$3.109$.543$16,9861.4%
19612.6%$3.188$.563$17,9830.7%
19626.1%$3.383$.605$18,3541.3%
19634.4%$3.530$.639$19,2331.6%
19645.8%$3.734$.686$20,0211.0%
19656.5%$3.977$.744$21,4641.9%
19666.6%$4.239$.815$21,8473.5%
19672.7%$4.355$.862$22,4543.0%
19684.9%$4.569$.943$23,2314.7%
19693.1%$4.713$1.020$23,0646.2%
19700.2%$4.722$1.076$23,3815.6%
19713.3%$4.878$1.168$23,9193.3%
19725.2%$5.134$1.282$25,4773.4%
19735.6%$5.424$1.429$25,4158.7%
1974-0.5%$5.396$1.549$24,60112.3%
1975-0.2%$5.385$1.689$25,8546.9%
19765.4%$5.675$1.878$26,4294.9%
19774.6%$5.937$2.086$27,2386.7%
19785.6%$6.267$2.357$28,6999.0%
19793.2%$6.466$2.632$28,77513.3%
1980-0.2%$6.450$2.863$28,95712.5%
19812.6%$6.618$3.211$27,9828.9%
1982-1.9%$6.491$3.345$28,1673.8%
19834.6%$6.792$3.638$30,3073.8%
19847.3%$7.285$4.041$31,4283.9%
19854.2%$7.594$4.347$32,4533.8%
19863.5%$7.861$4.590$33,0361.1%
19873.5%$8.133$4.870$34,1484.4%
19884.2%$8.475$5.253$35,2914.4%
19893.7%$8.786$5.658$35,9414.6%
19901.9%$8.955$5.980$35,1456.1%
1991-0.1%$8.948$6.174$35,6943.1%
19923.6%$9.267$6.539$36,3812.9%
19932.7%$9.521$6.879$37,1712.7%
19944.0%$9.905$7.309$38,0082.7%
19952.7%$10.175$7.664$38,5442.5%
19963.8%$10.561$8.100$39,8253.3%
19974.5%$11.035$8.609$41,1761.7%
19984.5%$11.526$9.089$42,6631.6%
19994.7%$12.066$9,661$43,9352.7%
20004.1%$12.560$10.285$44,4923.4%
20011.0%$12.682$10.622$44,6871.6%
20021.8%$12.909$10.978$44,9962.4%
20032.8%$13.271$11.511$46,5601.9%
20043.8%$13.774$12.275$47,8003.3%
20053.3%$14.234$13.094$48,8563.4%
20062.7%$14.614$13.856$48,9872.5%
20071.8%$14.874$14.478$49,0604.1%
2008-0.3%$14.830$14.719$46,9410.1%
2009-2.8%$14.419$14.419$47,2802.7%
20102.5%$14.784$14.964$47,8061.5%
20111.6%$15.021$15.518$48,7573.0%
20122.2%$15.355$16.155$49.0391.7%
20131.7%$15.612$16.692$49,4721.5%
20142.4%$15.982$17.393$50,7180.8%
20152.6% $16.397$18.036$51,1230.7%
20161.6%$16.660$18.556$57,3002.1%

 

Recessions and Major Events Influencing GDP

1929: Hoover became President. Depression began in August. Stock market crashed in October. 1930: Congress enacted Smoot-Hawley tariffs. 1931: The Dust Bowl drought began. 1932: Hoover balanced the budget. That worsened the Depression. 

1933: FDR became President.

Unemployment was at 25 percent. He passed the New Deal and Glass-Steagall. 1934: World trade fell 66 percent since 1930.  The drought returned. Worst dust storm ever occurred on April 15. 1935: Congress passed Social Security. The drought returned in 1936 and 1937. 

1940: The Selective Service Act was signed as the U.S. started preparing for World War II. The first Social Security checks were paid. PA and LA highways opened. The last year of drought.  1941: Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, forcing US into WWII. 1944: The Bretton-Woods Agreement established U.S. dollar as a global currency and launched World Bank and IMF.

1945: Truman became President. The end of WWII caused a recession (Feb-Oct). 1947: The Marshall Plan, Truman Doctrine and Cold War began. 1948: The Berlin airlift. A recession began in November. 1949: NATO was established. Communists took over China. The recession ended in October. 1950: The U.S. entered the Korean War.

1953: Eisenhower became President. The Korean War ended.

1954: The Dow returned to pre-Depression level. Recession began. Fed kept rate around 1 percent. 1955: The Supreme Court ordered school desegregation. Fed raised rate to 2.48 percent. 1957: Fed raised rate to 3.0 percent. 1958: GDP plummeted 10.4 percent in Q1. Unemployment rose to 7.1 percent. Fed lowered rate to .63 percent. 1949: Alaska and Hawaii became states. Fed raised rate to 4.0 percent. 1960: Recession. GDP fell 4.2 percent in Q4. Fed lowered rate to 1.98 percent.

1961: JFK became President. Unemployment hit 6.1 percent. Attacked recession with expansionary fiscal policy. Bay of Pigs invasion. Berlin Wall erected. 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis. 1963: Oswald assassinated JFK in November. LBJ became President. Fed raised rate to 3.5 percent. 1964: Fed raised rate to 3.85 percent. 1965: U.S. entered the Vietnam War. Fed raised rate to 4.32 percent. 1966: Fed raised rate to 5.76 percent to fight 3.5 percent inflation. 

1969: Nixon became President. ARPANET created. Man landed on the moon. Fed raised rate to 9.19 percent to fight inflation. Congress passed AMT. 1970: Recession. GDP fell 4.2 percent in Q4. Nixon bombed Cambodia. Fed lowered rate to 4.9 percent to fight recession despite inflation. 1971: Unemployment peaked at 6.1 percent. Fed lowered rate to 3.5 percent, then raised it to 5 percent. Nixon instituted wage-price controls in August creating stagflation. 1973: Nixon completely took the U.S. dollar off gold standard, tripling inflation. As the dollar declined, oil-exporting countries saw their revenues fall right along with it. In October, OPEC launched an oil embargo against the United States. Fed doubled rate to 11 percent in September, slowing growth. U.S. withdrew from Vietnam.

1974: Nixon resigned over Watergate. Ford became President. Fed raised rate to 13 percent in July, then lowered it. 1975: GDP fell 4.8 percent in Q1. Unemployment peaked at 9 percent. Fed lowered rate to 7.5 percent despite 6.9 percent inflation. 1976: Fed lowered rate to 4.75 percent.

1977: Carter became President. 1978: Miller became Fed Chair, raising rate to 10 percent to fight 9 percent inflation. 1979: Fed raised rate to 15.5 percent to fight 13.3 percent inflation, then lowered it to 12 percent. That stop-go monetary policy confused businesses, who kept raising prices. Iranian students took 60 Americans hostage to protest U.S. protection of Shah. Three Mile Island disaster ends further U.S. nuclear construction. Carter replaced Miller with Paul Volcker as Fed Chair in October. He raised rates to 15.5 percent to end inflation. 1980: Fed raised rate to 20 percent. GDP dropped 7.9 percent in Q2. Fed lowered rate to 10 percent in August to boost economy, then raised it to 20 percent to fight 12.5 percent inflation. Iran oil embargo.

1981: Reagan became President. Fed lowered rate to 12 percent. Recession began in July. 1982: Congress passed Garn-St. Germain Act to fight recession. Fed lowered rate to 8.5 percent. 1983: Unemployment was 10.8 percent. Reagan proposed Star Wars and increased military spending. 1986: Reagan cut taxes. Chernobyl nuclear accident. 1987: Black Monday stock market crash. 1988: Fed raised rate to 9.75 percent.

1989: Bush 41 became President. Exxon Valdez oil spill leaked. U.S. invasion of Panama toppled President Noriega. S&L Crisis caused recession. Fed lowered rate to 8.25 percent to fight it, despite inflation. Berlin Wall fell. 1990: Iraq invaded Kuwait. U.S. responded with Desert Storm attack. Dow fell 18 percent in 3 months. 1991: Recession. Soviet Union dissolved. Fed lowered rate to 4 percent. 1992: Fed lowered rate to 3 percent.

1993: Clinton became President NAFTA and European Union signed into law. World Trade Center bombed. 1995: Fed raised rate to 6 percent. 1997: Thailand cut its dollar peg. Speculators sold all Asian currencies. 1998: Russia defaulted on its debt, causing the Long Term Capital Management hedge fund to nearly collapse. Fed lowered rate to 4.75 percent. 1999: Y2K scare spurred tech purchases. Clinton and Congress cut spending, creating budget surplus. The EU created the euro. Congress repealed Glass-Steagall. Fed raised rate to 5.5 percent. 2000: Tech bubble burst. Fed raised rate to 6.5 percent.

2001: Bush 43 took office. Recession worsened by 9/11 attacks and War on Terror, but helped by EGTRRA, the first Bush tax cut. Fed lowered rates. 2002: Bush called for regime change in Iraq, created Homeland Security. 2003: Unemployment rose to 6 percent. Fed lowered rate to 1 percent. Bush enacted JGTRRA tax cut for businesses. Iraq War began. 2004: Fed started raising rates. 2005: Hurricane Katrina cost $250 billion in damage. 2006: Fed funds rate raised to 6.75 percent. Swine flu epidemic. 2007: Dow reached new high of 14,164.43. Fed dropped rate 3 times, to 4.25 percent, to ease banking liquidity crisisLIBOR rose to 5.6 percent. 2008: The stock market crashed causing global financial crisis and $350 billion spent on bank bailout bill. Fed lowered rate 7 times to 0 percent. See 2008 GDP by quarter.

2009: Obama became President. Dow dropped to 6,594.44 in March. Obama Stimulus Act spent $400 billion, reversed downward spiral. See 2009 GDP by quarter. 2010: BP oil spill occurred in April. Congress passed Obama tax cutsObamacare and Dodd-Frank. See 2010 GDP by quarter. 2011: Japan earthquake and Mississippi River floods slowed the economy. The 10-year Treasury yield hit a 200-year low. Iraq War ended. 2012: Presidential campaign and fiscal cliff created business uncertainty. Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast. See U.S. Economy 2012. 2013: Sequestration slowed the economy. Low nominal GDP growth thanks to low inflation. GDP per capita returned to its pre-recession level. 2014: Growth increased as the economy got back on its feet, and inflation remained low. Fed ended Quantitative Easing. 2015: The strong dollar hurt exports. Oil prices collapsed. 2016: Consumer spending and home construction was steady. But commercial construction and business spending was dismal. The strong dollar dampened exports. Oil prices strengthened after OPEC constrained supply. 

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