U.S. GDP by Year Compared to Recessions and 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 Bureau of Economic Analysis 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)Events Affecting GDP
1929NA$1.057$.105Depression began
1930-8.5%$.967$.092Smoot-Hawley
1931-6.4%$.905$.077Dust Bowl
1932-12.9%$.788$.060Hoover tax hikes
1933-1.3%$.778$.057New Deal
193410.8%$.862$.067U.S. debt rose
19358.9%$.939$.074Social Security
193612.9%$1.061$.085FDR tax hikes
19375.1%$1.115$.093Depression returned
1938-3.3%$1.078$.087Depression ended
19398.0%$1.164$.094WWII started. Drought ended.
19408.8%$1.266$.103Defense increased.
194117.7%$1.490$.129Pearl Harbor
194218.9%$1.772$.166 
194317.0%$2.074$.203Defense spending tripled.
19448.0%$2.239$.225Bretton Woods
1945-1.0%$2.218$.228WWII ended. Recession
1946-11.6%$1.961$.228Budget cuts
1947-1.1%$1.939$.250Cold war began
19484.1%$2.020$.275Recession
1949-0.5%$2.009$.273NATO. Fair Deal.
19508.7%$2.184$.300Korean War.
19518.1%$2.360$.347 
19524.1%$2.456$.368 
19534.7%$2.571$.390War ended. Recession.
1954-0.6%$2.557$.391Dow returned to 1929 high
19557.1%$2.739$.426 
19562.1%$2.797$.450 
19572.1%$2.856$.475Recession
1958-0.7%$2.835$.482Recession ended.
19596.9%$3.031$.523Fed raised rates
19602.6%$3.109$.543Recession
19612.6%$3.188$.563JFK's deficit spending ended recession
19626.1%$3.383$.605
19634.4%$3.530$.639
19645.8%$3.734$.686LBJ's Medicare, Medicaid
19656.5%$3.977$.744
19666.6%$4.239$.815Vietnam War
19672.7%$4.355$.862 
19684.9%$4.569$.943Moon landing
19693.1%$4.713$1.020Nixon took office
19700.2%$4.722$1.076Recession
19713.3%$4.878$1.168Wage-price controls
19725.2%$5.134$1.282Stagflation
19735.6%$5.424$1.429Gold standard ended
1974-0.5%$5.396$1.549Watergate
1975-0.2%$5.385$1.689Recession ended
19765.4%$5.675$1.878Fed lowered rate
19774.6%$5.937$2.086 
19785.6%$6.267$2.357Fed raised rate to 20% to stop inflation
19793.2%$6.466$2.632
1980-0.2%$6.450$2.863Recession
19812.6%$6.618$3.211Reagan tax cut
1982-1.9%$6.491$3.345Recession ended
19834.6%$6.792$3.638Tax hike and defense spending
19847.3%$7.285$4.041
19854.2%$7.594$4.347 
19863.5%$7.861$4.590Tax cut
19873.5%$8.133$4.870Black Monday
19884.2%$8.475$5.253Fed raised rates
19893.7%$8.786$5.658S&L Crisis
19901.9%$8.955$5.980Recession
1991-0.1%$8.948$6.174Recession
19923.6%$9.267$6.539Bush 41 signed NAFTA
19932.7%$9.521$6.879Balanced Budget Act
19944.0%$9.905$7.309 
19952.7%$10.175$7.664Fed raised rate
19963.8%$10.561$8.100Welfare reform
19974.5%$11.035$8.609 
19984.5%$11.526$9.089LTCM crisis
19994.7%$12.066$9.661Glass-Steagall repealed
20004.1%$12.560$10.285Tech bubble burst
20011.0%$12.682$10.6229/11 attacks
20021.8%$12.909$10.978War on Terror
20032.8%$13.271$11.511Iraq WarJGTRRA
20043.8%$13.774$12.275 
20053.3%$14.234$13.094Katrina. Bankruptcy Act
20062.7%$14.614$13.856Fed raised rates.
20071.8%$14.874$14.478Bank crisis
2008-0.3%$14.830$14.719Financial crisis
2009-2.8%$14.419$14.419Stimulus Act
20102.5%$14.784$14.964ACADodd-Frank
20111.6%$15.021$15.518Japan earthquake
20122.2%$15.355$16.155Fiscal cliff
20131.7%$15.612$16.692Sequestration
20142.4%$15.982$17.393QE ends
20152.6%$16.397$18.036TPP. Iran deal.
20161.6%$16.660$18.556 

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