BlackRock Investment Institute

Macro insights

Not a recession warning

The U.S. economy shrank by 1.4% in the first quarter of 2022 - see the yellow line in the chart. This has fueled concerns that a recession could be around the corner. We don’t think so. Key to remember: The post-pandemic restart of economic activity is not a typical business cycle recovery. It’s more like rebuilding after a natural disaster. And we think the restart is not yet done.

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U.S. real GDP and pre-pandemic GDP trend

Sources: BlackRock Investment Institute, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, with data from Refinitiv Datastream, May 2022. Note: The chart shows U.S. real GDP and a projection of what GDP might have been if it kept growing at its average pace from earlier quarters from Q4 2019 onward.

Restart not finished

Why? Consumer spending is still growing, driven entirely by services (spending on goods decreased slightly). The shift back to spending on services is a key indicator of a continuing restart. It’s a reversal of the massive spending shift away from services and toward goods that followed the pandemic lockdowns. That dynamic created supply bottlenecks and pushed up prices. As it unwinds, we can expect those inflationary pressures to ease. A further sign that the restart is not yet finished? U.S. GDP is still 2.5% below where it would have been without the pandemic.This shows the economy still has room to grow.

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Elga Bartsch
Head of Macro Research
Read bio
Nicholas Fawcett
Macro Research

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