Economics Statistics in an Alternative Universe

Suppose I told you about a wonderful country where :

  • Domestic production of goods is at an all-time high.
  • Domestic production of services is an all-time high.
  • 10-year productivity growth is nearly at the highest level in 40 years.
  • Workers are one-third more productive than a decade ago.
  • Exports have expanded over the four years of the crisis, while imports have shrunk.
  • Exports have grown much faster over the past decade than imports.

Seems like a pipe dream, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you like to live in that country?

But wait! You can live in that country…..(see below)

In fact, many of you already do…..because these are the official economic statistics for the good old United States of America.

The official GDP and productivity statistics tell the story of a country that has already shaken off the dust of the recession, where exports are booming, where workers have shown spectacular productivity gains.

Sure does seems different than the economy most of us live in, doesn’t?

Makes you wonder if these numbers come from an alternative universe, where the U.S. is prosperous and economically healthy.

Let’s go to the official charts:

Stat #1: The gross domestic product of goods officially hit a new high in real terms in the first quarter of 2010. (Note: There are other ways to calculate goods output, but this one flows right out of the GDP statistics).

Stat #2: The real gross domestic product of services officially barely dropped during the worst of the bust, and has resumed its steady climb.

Stat #3: 10-year productivity growth has officially averaged just under 3% a year, despite two recessions.

Stat #4: According to the official statistics, the ‘oughts’ were the best decade for productivity growth since World War II, beating out the 1990s and even the 1960s.

Stat #5: The housing market peaked in early 2006. According to the official statistics, real exports have risen by 14% since 2006Q1, while real imports have fallen by 8%.

Stat#6. Real exports have officially risen faster than real imports over the past decade (starting with 00Q1)

Like I said, an alternative universe.

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About Michael Mandel 126 Articles

Michael Mandel was BusinessWeek's chief economist from 1989-2009, where he helped direct the magazine's coverage of the domestic and global economies.

Since joining BusinessWeek in 1989, he has received multiple awards for his work, including being honored as one of the 100 top U.S. business journalists of the 20th century for his coverage of the New Economy. In 2006 Mandel was named "Best Economic Journalist" by the World Leadership Forum.

Mandel is the author of several books, including Rational Exuberance, The Coming Internet Depression, and The High Risk Society.

Mandel holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.

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