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The Atlanta Fed's macroblog provides commentary and analysis on economic topics including monetary policy, macroeconomic developments, inflation, labor economics, and financial issues.

Authors for macroblog are Dave Altig, John Robertson, and other Atlanta Fed economists and researchers.


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April 17, 2015


Déjà Vu All Over Again

In a recent interview, Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said, “The first quarter was poor. That seems to be a new seasonal pattern. It's been that way for about four of the last five years.”

The picture below illustrates the vice chair's sentiment. Output in the first quarter has grown at a paltry 0.6 percent during the past five years, compared to a 2.9 percent average during the remaining three quarters of the year.

Real Gross Domestic Product Growth by Quarter

What's causing this pattern? Well, it could be we just get really unlucky at the same time every year. Or, it could be a more technical problem with seasonal adjustment after the Great Recession (this paper by Jonathan Wright covers the topic using payroll data). It also seems likely that we can just blame the weather (see this Wall Street Journal blog post).

Whatever the reason for the first-quarter weakness, it appears to be happening again. Our current quarterly tracking estimate—GDPNow—has first-quarter growth hovering just above zero. As for the rest of the year, we'll have to wait and see. We of course hope it follows the postrecession pattern.


April 17, 2015 in Economic Growth and Development , GDP | Permalink

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Comments

I blame China and the Lunar New Year which as Asia grows in importance introduces seasonal volatility into 1Q. For proof look at table 2 contribution to GDP in the bea release. 1Q contribution from net trade is always negative in 1Q.

I also blame the Govt, both 4Q and 1Q are very seasonal ever since 2010.

Possibly blame global climate change as the winters are colder and summers are warmer this introduces larger swings in utility usage

Posted by: Mike Donnelly | April 29, 2015 at 11:27 AM

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