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 is a good overview of economic growth in the United States. Below, find a table of the nation's gross domestic product for each quarter since 1929, plus major economic events. It begins with the stock market crash of 1929 and goes through the subsequent Great Depression. It includes five wars 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, which is also 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 approved NAFTA draft.
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%$16.662$18.569 

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