What Is the U.S. GDP Growth Rate?

Why it's important and how to calculate it

what is the GDP growth rate? Indicates how quickly the economy is growing or shrinking. Has four components: personal consumption, business investment, government spending, and net trade. Shows where the economy is within the business cycle. Real GDP adjusts for inflation

The Balance / Julie Bang

The gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate measures how rapidly the economy is growing or shrinking. It compares the most recent quarter of the country's economic output to the previous quarter. Economic output is measured by GDP.

By the Numbers

  • The current U.S. GDP growth rate is 2.9%. That means the U.S. economy expanded by 2.9% in the fourth quarter of 2022 compared with the third quarter of 2022, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
  • The increase was the second in a row, as the economy had seen two consecutive quarters of decline in the first half of the year.
  • The increase was about more than economists were expecting and may help ease some of the more severe recession predictions.

What the GPD Growth Rate Means for You

The GDP growth rate is an important economic indicator. It reveals which of the four stages of the business cycle the economy is in: peak, contraction, trough, and expansion. These stages point to whether the stock market and personal income are growing and businesses are hiring. The Bureau of Economic Analysis updates its GDP estimates as new data comes in. Those revisions impact the stock market as investors react to this new information.


A common rule-of-thumb for defining a recession is two consecutive quarters of falling real GDP.

The Four Components of GDP

The GDP has four components: personal consumption, business investment, government spending, and net trade. The primary driver of GDP growth is personal consumption, which includes the critical sector of retail sales. Next is business investment, which includes construction and inventory levels.

Government spending is the third driver of growth. Its largest categories are Social Security benefits, defense spending, and Medicare benefits. The government often increases this component to jump-start the economy during a recession.

Finally, the fourth component is net trade, or exports minus imports. Exports add to GDP while imports subtract from it.

Below, you can see how the quarterly GDP growth rate has changed over time, from 2007 to 2021.

Why the GDP Growth Rate Is Important

The GDP growth rate is positive when the economy is expanding. If it's growing, so will businesses, jobs, and personal income. The ideal growth rate is between 2% and 3%. It hits a peak if it expands beyond that for too long. The bubble bursts at that point, and economic growth stalls.

If the economy contracts, businesses typically hold off investing in new purchases. They’ll delay hiring new employees until they are confident that the economy will improve. Those delays further depress the economy. Without jobs, consumers have less money to spend.

The country's economy is in a recession if the GDP growth rate turns negative. A negative rate occurs when GDP is less than that of the previous quarter or year. It will continue to be negative until it hits a trough. That’s the month when things start to turn around. After the trough, GDP usually turns positive again.

GDP Growth Rate Formula

The BEA provides a formula for calculating the U.S. GDP growth rate. Here's a step-by-step example for the fourth quarter of 2021:

  1. Go to Table 1.1.5, Gross Domestic Product at the BEA website.
  2. Divide the annualized rate for Q4 2021 ($19.806 trillion) by the Q3 2021 annualized rate ($19. trillion). You should get 1.0167.
  3. Raise this to the power of 4. (There's a function called "POWER" that does that in Excel). You should get 1.0688.
  4. Subtract one. You should get 0.688.
  5. Convert to a percentage by multiplying by 100 and then rounding up, and that brings you to 6.9%.

You should get the same rate as the BEA's estimate for GDP growth for that quarter with this equation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is GDP?

GDP stands for "gross domestic product." It's a measure of the total value of everything that is produced within a country. GDP provides an important snapshot of a country's economic health. If someone talks about the "size" of a country's economy, they're talking about its GDP.

What causes GDP to grow?

A country with a large and reliable supply of the factors of production can drive economic activity, which causes GDP to grow and increases the GDP growth rate. The factors of production are labor, land, capital, and entrepreneurship. Government spending can also drive GDP growth.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bureau of Economic Analysis. "Gross Domestic Product."

  2. Bureau of Economic Analysis. "Gross Domestic Product."

  3. Congressional Research Service. "Introduction to U.S. Economy: The Business Cycle and Growth." Page 1.

  4. Bureau of Economic Analysis. “What Is GDP?" Page 2.

  5. Bureau of Economic Analysis. “National Income and Product Accounts: Table 1.1.1. Percent Change From Preceding Period in Real Gross Domestic Product."

  6. Stanford University. "The Facts of Economic Growth," Page 3.

  7. Bureau of Economic Analysis. “How Is Average Annual Growth Calculated?

  8. Bureau of Economic Analysis. “National Income and Product Accounts Tables - Table 1.1.6. Real GDP, Chained Dollars."

  9. Bureau of Economic Analysis. "Gross Domestic Product (Third Estimate), Corporate Profits, and GDP by Industry, Fourth Quarter and Year 2021."

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