Shelley Moore Capito Mostly Right about Recent GDP Growth, Unemployment
In a recent op-ed, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., wrote that the economic environment in West Virginia -- and the United States as a whole -- is the healthiest it’s been in years.
In the op-ed, published Jan. 3 in the Daily Mail WV, Capito wrote that "the American economy had quite a year. In fact, our economy is growing at its fastest pace in nearly four years. Unemployment is at an all-time low."
Is this accurate? We reached out to Capito’s office but did not receive a response, so we turned to official federal economic data. We found that Capito’s comment is mostly -- but not completely -- on the mark.
The typical statistic used to measure economic growth is the percent change in inflation-adjusted gross domestic product over the previous quarter. Here’s how that looks since the beginning of 2007, right before the onset of the Great Recession.
In the most recent quarter for which data was available -- the third quarter of 2018 -- inflation-adjusted GDP grew by 3.4 percent. The quarter before that -- the second quarter of 2018 -- it grew at 4.2 percent.
The last time the quarterly growth rate was higher than that was in the third quarter of 2014, when the rate stood at 4.9 percent.
That’s about four years ago. So if you look at the two most recent periods, they are both higher than any other quarter going back about four years.
On the unemployment rate, Capito is close but not exactly correct when she says it’s at an all-time low.
Here’s a chart showing the most commonly cited unemployment statistic going back to 1948, when the calculation first took its current form.
At the time the op-ed was published, the most recent unemployment rate, for December 2018, was 3.9 percent. And in the recent past -- from August to November 2018 -- the rate had hovered between 3.7 percent and 3.8 percent.
That’s quite low by historical standards, but not the lowest ever.
In 1968 and 1969, unemployment was below 3.7 percent for more than a year. And for most of 1951, 1952 and 1953, it was also under 3.7 percent.
Capito said, "Our economy is growing at its fastest pace in nearly four years. Unemployment is at an all-time low."
She’s right about the pace of economic growth, and she’s close on the unemployment rate, which has in recent months been at its lowest rate in about half a century, though not since the creation of the statistic.
We rate her statement Mostly True.