America's economy just had its worst quarter on record

The coronavirus recession is predicted to be the deepest on record since the Great Depression, but so far, it's short-lived. The Great Recession and Great Depression were particularly painful because they dragged on for years. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The US economy contracted by 32.9% between April and June, its worst drop on record, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Thursday.

Business ground to a halt during the pandemic lockdown in the spring of this year, and America plunged into its first recession in 11 years, putting an end to the longest economic expansion in US history.

A recession is commonly defined as two consecutive quarters of declining gross domestic product — the broadest measure of the economy. Between January and March, GDP declined by 5%.

But this is no ordinary recession. The combination of public health and economic crises is unprecedented, and numbers cannot fully convey the hardships millions of Americans are facing.

The pandemic pushed the economy fell off a cliff. The GDP drop was nearly four times worse than during the peak of the financial crisis, when GDP fell 8.4% in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Quarterly GDP numbers are expressed as an annualized rate. This means that the economy didn't actually contract by a third from the first quarter to the second. The annualized rate measures how much the economy would grow or shrink if conditions were to persist for 12 months. But by either measure, the second quarter is still the worst on record.

The US only began keeping quarterly GDP records in 1947, so it's difficult to compare the current downturn to the Great Depression. That said, in 1932 the US economy contracted 12.9%.

This is a developing story. It will be updated

Support Local Journalism

Now, more than ever, the world needs trustworthy reporting—but good journalism isn’t free. Please support us by subscribing or making a contribution today.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please log in, or sign up for a new, free account to read or post comments.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.