U.S. slightly upgrades GDP estimate for 3rd quarter to 33.4% growth

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy expanded at a 33.4% annual pace from July through September, the Commerce Department said today, delivering the last of three estimates on the economy’s third-quarter performance. But it’s likely that a resurgence in coronavirus cases slowed growth sharply during the last three months of 2020.

The July-September growth spurt — upgraded slightly from Commerce’s previous estimate of 33.1%, announced last month — marked a sharp recovery from the second quarter’s 31.4% drop, the worst in records dating back to 1947. The American economy went into freefall when the pandemic hit hard in mid-March.

Employers slashed 22 million jobs in March and April, then began to steadily recall furloughed workers. But the United States is 9.8 million short of the jobs it had February, and hiring has slowed every month since June.

But an uptick in new COVID-19 cases — now averaging about 220,000 a day, up from fewer than 35,000 in early September — is causing governments to issue lock down orders and keeping Americans at home to avoid infection.

Growth in gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic output — is expected to slow to just 2.8% in the fourth quarter, according to the Conference Board, a business research group.