Preliminary 1Q GDP -5.7%. Last 2 Quarters Are Largest Contraction Since 1947.

Preliminary 1Q2009 GDP came in today at -5.7%, and combine with 4Q2008 GDP of -6.3%, these two quarters represent the largest economic contraction since 1947—since then, the economy has never contracted by more than 4% for two consecutive quarters. There is one more reading due for 1Q2009: the ‘Final’ reading that follows today’s report comes out June 25.

As of December 23, 2008, -0.5% GDP was the largest quarterly decline since the tail end of the last recession in 2001. Six days after that release, the NBER declared a recession has been in effect since December 2007 and also countered the popular definition of recession as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth, saying that they evaluate many factors in addition to GDP. Below are the last five quarters of final GDP.

4Q2007: -0.2% (final)
1Q2008: +0.9% (final)
2Q2008: +2.8% (final)
3Q2008: -0.5% (final)
4Q2008: -6.3 (final)
1Q2009: -5.7% (preliminary—next reading June 25)