Q1 GDP revised downward to 1.9%

The Commerce Department released its second estimate of economic growth in the first quarter, and as expected, the number got revised downward.  The advance report a month ago showed Q1’s annualized growth number at 2.2%, down from 2011Q4’s 3.0%, a significant drop, but the second estimate pegs Q1 growth even lower at 1.9%:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the first quarter of 2012 (that is, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter), according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter of 2011, real GDP increased 3.0 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “advance” estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, the increase in real GDP was 2.2 percent (see “Revisions” on page 3).

The increase in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), exports, residential fixed investment, private inventory investment, and nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by negative contributions from federal government spending and state and local government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The deceleration in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected a deceleration in private inventory investment, an acceleration in imports, and a deceleration in nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by accelerations in exports and in PCE.

In last month’s report, I noted that real final sales of domestic product, which takes out inventory expansion, only increased by 1.6%.  That indicates a lack of demand, and hinted at a downward revision.  In the new report, this same indicator now comes in at 1.7%, close to the new 1.9% overall figure for the quarter.  I’d guess that the final number for Q1 will be unchanged when it gets released in another month.

Nor is that the only economic indicator today on the growth side to raise red flags.  After-tax corporate profits in Q1 fell for the first time in three years:

The department also said after-tax corporate profits fell at a 4.1 percent rate, the biggest decline since the fourth quarter of 2008, as taxes took a big bite from earnings. After-tax profits rose 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter.

What happens when profits fall?  Jobs don’t get created, and business doesn’t expand.  Don’t expect a significant boost in job creation this summer, in other words, or perhaps even the fall.  Looks like we’re in for another Stagnant Spring and Wreckovery Summer once again.