The U.S. economy grew at a 2.1% annual rate over the final three months of 2019, the Commerce Department estimated Tuesday. For the full year, gross domestic product grew by 2.3%, down from 2.9% in 2018 and 2.4% in 2017.
“Trump and his fellow Republicans have portrayed the U.S. economy’s performance as ‘unprecedented,’ ‘historic,’ and in the ‘fast lane’ after the GOP tax cuts, but economists say it is best characterized as slightly above potential,” The Washington Post’s Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam write. “The strong gains in 2018 did not last.”
The deceleration in 2019 reflected slowing in business investment and consumer spending and a drop in exports. Business investment has fallen for three straight quarters amid uncertainty created by President Trump’s trade wars with China. “That's the longest contraction since the great recession and suggests GOP tax cuts didn't lead to the kind of sustained spending boom advocates had touted,” The Wall Street Journal says.
Those drags on growth were partly offset by increased state, local and federal government spending. “U.S. government spending has been a consistent driver of growth during the Trump administration,” the Journal notes. “Federal expenditures and investment have added to GDP for 11 straight quarters, the longest such stretch since the recession and its immediate aftermath.”
Economists expect growth to slow a bit further in 2020 and come in around 1.8%.