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The final (for now) official read for America’s economic growth in the third quarter came out this morning, and it confirmed again that both the gross domestic product (GDP) and the country’s major trade flows changed (and were distorted by) historic rates during that phase of the CCP Virus pandemic.

At the same time, the new inflation-adjusted GDP data (the measure most closely followed by serious students of the economy) and the related trade figures make clear that in these 30,000-foot macroeconomic terms, trade has been a minor part of the post-virus growth picture. (In terms of specific products, like healthcare-related goods, the story is of course different, because their availability has affected the severity of the pandemic and resulting deep economic slump, and the expected schedule for recovery.)

Not surprisingly, given the slightly faster real expansion reported by the Commerce Department this morning (33.4 percent at an annual rate, versus the previously judged 33.1 percent), and continued economic sluggishness overseas, the quarter’s after-inflation overall trade deficit came in slightly higher, too – $1.0190 trillion annualized as opposed to $1.0164 trillion.

That’s a new quarterly record by an even wider margin than reported in the previous GDP report. So is the sequential increase – 31.47 percent as opposed to 31.13 percent. Just for some perspective, the next biggest quarterly jump in the constant dollar trade gap was just 13.18 percent (between the first and second quarters of 2010).

But as noted in last month’s RealityChek GDP post, 2010 was when the U.S. economy was recovering from the Great Recession that followed the global financial crisis, and annualized growth during that second quarter was just a ninth as fast (3.69 percent) as this year’s third quarter.

The subtraction from real economic growth generated by the latest surge in the trade deficit was big in absolute terms (3.21 percentage points), increased slightly over the previously reported 3.18 percentage points), and still stands just shy of the all-time biggest trade bite (3.22 percentage points, in the third quarter of 1982). But set against 33.4 percent annualized growth, it’s clearly not very big at all.

Combined goods and services exports and imports changed to roughly the same modest degree as the overall trade deficit. The quarter-to-quarter price-adjusted export increase was revised down from 12.56 percent to 12.41 percent, and the total real import increase is now judged to be 17.87 percent, not 17.89 percent. As a result, both figures remained multi-decade worsts and bests.

Somewhat greater relative changes took place in the service trade data – which isn’t surprising, with the service sector having been hit much harder by the pandemic than goods sectors.

All the same, whereas the previous GDP report showed that after-inflation services exports edged up on quarter by 0.21 percent (from $582.1 billion annualized to $583.3 billion), this morning’s release recorded slippage – by 0.14 percent, to $581.3 billion. Consequently, they now stand at their lowest quarterly level since the third quarter of 2009 – just as that Great Recession recovery was beginning.

As for real services imports, their quarterly price-adjusted increase was revised down from 5.91 percent to 5.70 percent, and their $393.3 billion level was the lowest since the third quarter of 2006.

Unfortunately, the prospect that these CCP Virus-related distortions in economic growth and trade figures will soon come to an end still seems as remote as the prospect that the virus itself will soon be tamed – even with the beginning of mass vaccination. As a result, for the time being, tracking these numbers will be useful for getting a sense of those distortions’ scale, but the underlying health of the economy, and of its trade flows, will remain elusive.