As a presidential candidate in 2016, Donald Trump made bold predictions about the kind of economic growth the United States would see if he were elected. Americans would celebrate, the Republican said, as annual GDP growth reached 4 percent for the first time in decades.
It was among the most jarring of Trump's broken promises. Even before the pandemic, GDP growth in Trump's first three years failed to reach 3 percent.
But as it turns out, the U.S. economy was able to reach growth rates unseen in a generation, but it happened under President Joe Biden. The Associated Press reported this morning:
The nation's gross domestic product — its total output of goods and services — expanded 5.7% in 2021. It was the strongest calendar-year growth since a 7.2% surge in 1984 after a previous recession. The economy ended the year by growing at an unexpectedly brisk 6.9% annual pace from October through December, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
Not only is this the strongest annual growth in 37 years, it's also the second strongest since 1966.
By any fair measure, this is excellent news that exceeded expectations. In fact, a year ago, none of the major forecasters were projecting growth this strong in the United States. Domestic growth even outpaced China's economic growth in 2021 for the first time in decades.
To help drive the point home, consider this newly revised chart, showing annual GDP since 1980:
All of this, of course, comes on the heels of related news that the economy also created 6.4 million jobs in Biden's first year in the White House — roughly in line with the number of jobs created over the first three years of Trump's presidency combined.
Remember, early last year, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy insisted that the Democratic president's economic policies "have stalled our recovery," adding, "Bidenomics is bad for America." Around the same time, Rep. Jim Banks, the chair of the Republican Study Committee, argued that the White House's economy agenda was sending the economy into a "tailspin."
Those complaints appeared foolish at the time. They look even worse now.
Postscript: It's worth clarifying that today's 6.9% quarterly figure refers to growth at an annualized rate, which is the standard way of reporting the data. In other words, if we saw 12 months of economic activity like what we saw in the fourth quarter, the economy would grow by roughly 6.9%.
You may also see some focus today on a different figure: 1.7%, which reflects the change between the third quarter and the fourth quarter.