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With this morning’s release of the official figures on fourth quarter and 2020 U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), the process of closing the books on the Trump economy took a big step forward. For even though several more revisions of this advance result will be coming (starting next month), these data show preliminarily how the American economy shrank during the first CCP Virus year, and of course the final year of Trump’s presidency, and how the pandemic influenced the nation’s trade flows.

The headline figures will be widely reported, but are worth presenting anyway. The new numbers show that the economy shrank in 2020 in inflation-adjusted terms (the most widely followed gauge) of 3.50 percent. How bad is that? It’s not only the worst such performance since the Great Recession that followed the global financial crisis. (In 2009, real GDP sank by 2.53 percent.) It’s the worst such performance since 1946. The year after the end of World War II, when bloated levels of military output understandably nosedived, national output cratered by 11.60 percent.

Also discouraging – the sequential growth during the fourth quarter was only 3.95 percent at an annual rate. This pace both came in well below generally reliable forecasts like that put out by the Atlanta branch of the Federal Reserve, and means that little lasting momentum was created by the third quarter’s virus- and reopening-related record rebound of nearly 30 percent annualized after inflation.

The only positive takeaway possible this news is that this “miss” largely reflected government orders literally to shut down or keep shut down economic activity, as opposed to the kinds of market-related forces (and purely economic policy decisions) that normally determine growth and contraction rates. So once the pandemic is over, economic normality and some degree of growth should return. In fact on Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund projected that, by the end of 2022, the United States will be the country that’s back closest to its pre-CCP Virus growth path. (The Fund’s prediction, though, of course preceded these new subpar fourth quarter U.S. GDP figures.

The trade component of the GDP figures has been just as thoroughly distorted as the overall numbers. At $925.8 billion in price-adjusted terms, the 2020 trade gap set a new annual record, and represented an increase of 0.89 percent over 2019’s total. And this rise, however modest, was startling on its face since the shortfall almost always decreases when growth shifts into reverse. Should Donald Trump’s trade policies therefore be labeled a failure? We’ll find out more when the detailed year-end trade statistics as such come out (on February 5).

Interestingly, the new GDP figures indicate that most of the trade deficit’s year-on-year worsening ($8.2 billion in real absolute terms) came on the goods side, even though national and global services industries have taken the biggest economic hit by far during the pandemic. Yet the American inflation-adjusted services surplus dipped by only $24.7 million between 2019 and 2020.

For all of 2020, total U.S. real exports plummeted by 12.96 percent, from $2.5466 trillion to $2.2165 trillion. The latter is the lowest level since 2012, and the fall-off was the biggest percentage-wise since the 13.49 percent decline in 1958 – when trade flows were much smaller in absolute terms, and therefore big percentage moves in either direction much easier to generate.

Goods exports last year dropped by 9.46 percent in price-adjusted terms, from $1.7825 trillion to $1.6138 trillion. The latter was the lowest level since 2013, and the decrease the biggest in percentage terms since 2009’s 11.86 percent. (Goods and services trade figures began to be reported separately by the Commerce Department only since 2002).

As expected, the damage to services exports was considerably greater. They plunged by 19.20 percent between 2019 and 2020 – by far the biggest plunge ever – and last year’s $620.2 billion level was the lowest since 2010.

Overall U.S. imports worsened as well in 2020, sinking by 9.29 percent, from $3.4642 trillion to $3.1423 trillion. The year’s total was the lowest since 2015, and the drop the biggest in percentage terms since the 13.08 percent slump in 2009.

As with exports, the goods imports decrease was relatively modest. Yet their 6.05 percent decline (from $2.9234 trillion to $2.7644 trillion) was also the greatest relatively speaking since 2009’s 15.30 percent, and consequently they reached their lowest level since 2016.

Services imports, by contrast, contracted by 22.59 percent, from $543.1 billion to $420.4 billion. This decrease was by far the biggest ever by any measure, and dragged these purchases to their lowest level since 2009.

The fourth quarter’s combined inflation-adjusted goods and services trade deficit hit an all-time high for such three-month periods as well, with its $1.1211 trillion annualized total slightly surpassing the previous record (set in the third quarter) by ten percent.

Quarterly total real exports of $2.2770 trillion annualized were 5.10 percent higher than the third quarter total of $2.1665 trillion. But they remained well below the first quarter’s $2.4951 trillion – just before the virus’ first wave and full economic effects hit with full force.

The comparable goods exports total rose by 7.65 percent, to $1.7232 trillion annualized. But they, too are off their last pre-CCP Virus levels – by 2.89 percent.

After-inflation services exports improved sequentially, too – by 1.07 percent, from $581.3 at an annual rate to $587.5 billion. But in the first quarter, they stood at $730.1 billion – 19.53 percent higher.

Total real imports increased faster during the fourth quarter than total real exports, expanding by 6.67 percent, from $3.1855 trillion annualized to $3.3981 trillion. As a result, they’re now actually higher than their last quarterly pre-pandemic level – by 3.50 percent.

Constant dollar goods imports have risen robustly, too. They passed their first quarter level by the third quarter, and in the fourth quarter advanced by another 5.13 percent (from $2.8723 trillion annualized to $3.0238 trillion.

Real services imports improved significantly as well. Their $413.6 billion annualize fourth quarter total represents a 5.16 percent gain from the third quarter total. But they’re still 17.69 percent below their last pre-pandemic quarterly level of $502.5 billion.

Two other findings of note: First, although the increase in the annual constant dollar trade deficit reached an all-time high last year, its effect on economic performance was relatively slight. The trade gap’s widening accounted for 0.13 percentage points of that 3.50 percent annual real GDP drop. Proportionately, that’s less damage than was inflicted in 2019, when the higher trade deficit cut 0.18 percentage points from the 2.16 percent overall growth rate.

Second, on a quarterly basis, the trade bite was much deeper, as the deficit’s increase subtracted 1.52 percentage points off of the 3.95 percent sequential inflation-adjusted GDP increase. But not even this blow was the biggest ever relatively speaking – or even close. (The all-time worst such performance came in the second quarter of 1952, when 0.85 percent after-inflation annualized growth would have been a full 2.23 percentage points higher if not for the sequential increase in the trade deficit.)