Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property in the U.S. - decreased at an annual rate of 3.8% in the fourth quarter of 2008, (that is, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter), according to advance estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP decreased 0.5%.
The Bureau emphasized that the fourth-quarter advance estimates are based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency. The fourth-quarter "preliminary" estimates, based on more comprehensive data, will be released on Feb. 27, 2009.
The decrease in real GDP in the fourth quarter primarily reflected negative contributions from exports, personal consumption expenditures, equipment and software, and residential fixed investment that were partly offset by positive contributions from private inventory investment and federal government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased.
Most of the major components contributed to the much larger decrease in real GDP in the fourth quarter than in the third. The largest contributors were a downturn in exports and a much larger decrease in equipment and software. The most notable offset was a much larger decrease in imports.