WASHINGTON – According to the Department of Commerce, real GDP increased by only 0.1 percent during the last quarter, the weakest reported economic growth since the end of 2012. While many have been trying to pinpoint the underlying cause, the nation’s top economists remain steadfast in believing the frigid winter is to blame.
Indeed, it has been the coldest December to February stretch in four years. “You’d be delusional to think that wouldn’t affect people’s spending patterns…what they’re deciding to buy, how much they’re spending on utilities, like heat, and whether or not they want to have dinner at the new Brazilian grill in Rittenhouse,” reported University of Pennsylvania Economics Professor Mark Burkowitz.
In the last quarter of 2013, real GDP grew by 2.6 percent, a 2.5 percentage point decrease in economic growth during a winter that caused 91% of the Great Lakes to be frozen by early March.
“When it’s that cold, people are just going to be more inclined to stay in and watch a movie by themselves, no matter how many times you ask Marcia if she’d like to go to the opera with you,” said John Ryding, Chief Economist at RDQ Economics LLC. “Even if you offer to have a driver pick her up and promise her that she wouldn’t have to wait outside for the tickets because you’d already bought them, she’s still going to say it’s too cold outside and she’d rather just stay in.”
Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 1.2 percent growth rate, while IHS forecasted a more modest growth of 0.7 percent. Both were blown out of the water by the actual dismal 0.1 percent figure.
When asked why the real rate was so far off the marks, IHS Global Economist Paul Edelstein said, “Sometimes our predictions are wrong. It’s part of the job. It’s part of being human. For instance going into January I thought, conservatively, I’d be looking at two dates a month. I ended up only going on one date which actually ended prematurely. You can’t predict cold weather’s economic effects and you can’t predict when your date’s going to receive a call in the bathroom that her sister’s car broke down on the highway.”
Not all analysts are convinced the weather entirely explains the dispiriting figure. Some think there are deeper issues inherent in the country’s handling of economic policy that must be addressed. Canada’s GDP, for instance, has reportedly grown 2.5 percent over the same time period.
“Yes, there are some out there who think the economic sluggishness has been caused by over-regulation, concerns about conditions internationally, or a retreat in factory expansion,” Edelstein admitted. “And yes, maybe more women would be willing to go on dates with you if you were less socially awkward or had better personal hygiene or didn’t spend a paragraph in your Match.com profile talking about New Trade Theory, but I think anyone looking at the world through an objective lens would realize the weather’s to blame here.”
Economists are more optimistic about the second quarter, predicting GDP growth of approximately 3 percent as well as eight dates per economist, with possibly more depending on how often they use Tinder.