The most recent economic news is figuratively, if not quite literally, depressing.
According to the Commerce Department, the economy expanded 1.3 percent in the second quarter of this year. We also learned that the economy came close to contracting in the first quarter. The government revised the first quarter growth figures downward to just 0.4 percent, a huge downward revision from what we were orginally told (an increase of 1.9 percent).
From the first quarter of 2010 through the first quarter of 2011, we experienced five consecutive quarters of slowing growth (3.9 percent, 3.8 percent, 2.5 percent, 2.3 percent, and 0.4 percent).
The combined growth for the first six months of the year was the weakest since the recession ended in the summer of 2009. This year, the economy will grow at a weaker pace than last year. And the economy is far too sluggish to make significant inroads into the unemployment rate, which now stands at 9.2 percent.
“The economy essentially came to a grinding halt in the first half of this year,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
In addition, in July, consumer confidence fell to its lowest point in more than two years. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s final reading on the overall index of consumer sentiment came in at 63.7, down from 71.5 in June, the lowest reading since March 2009.
Considerable human hardship lies behind this economic data. And that will properly translate–for the president and his party in 2012–into considerable political hardship.