Jan. 27 (UPI) — The U.S. economy grew 1.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, slightly less than economists had expected, the Commerce Department said.
The growth in the gross domestic product, the total output of the U.S. economy, caps off a long period of sustained, though less-than-robust gains under President Barack Obama.
The fourth quarter numbers, which will be revised twice as more data is made available, mean the economy grew at an overall rate of 1.9 percent in 2016. That is slightly below the rate of 2.1 percent GDP growth the economy has averaged since 2010, when the recovery from the 2008 recession began in earnest.
Though the overall GDP rate was less than the 2.2 percent forecast by a survey of economists conducted by Bloomberg, signs of upward trends were noted. The job market continued to improve, with the nation adding 156,000 jobs in December, ending the year at 4.7 percent unemployment. That figure brings the economy within sight of full employment, the point at which the economy has produced enough jobs so that every worker who wants one can find one. Wages also rose 2.9 percent from the year before.
Still, the growth is far shy of the 4 percent expansion forecast by President Donald Trump. Economists told Bloomberg such a figure would be immensely difficult to achieve without a significant increase in the labor pool, or the number of working age adults.
The single largest drag on the economy at the end of 2016 was the trade imbalance, with Americans buying more foreign goods than U.S. goods sold overseas. The fourth quarter fall-off, however, was partly a function of a minor export bubble in the third quarter, where 3.5 percent GDP growth was fueled largely by a significant short-term increase in soybean exports, which temporarily helped close the nation’s trade deficit.