The U.S. economy shrank at a 4.8% annual rate last quarter as the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the country and began triggering a recession that will end the longest expansion on record.
The Commerce Department says the gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, posted a quarterly drop for the first time in six years.
Forecasters say the drop in the January-March quarter will be only a precursor of a far grimmer GDP report to come on the current April-June period, with business shutdowns and layoffs striking with devastating force.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that GDP will plunge this quarter at a 40% annual rate.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross issued the following statement in response:
"Today’s GDP numbers are weak, but in line with expectations as a result of the COVID-19-driven disruptions to daily lives at home and around the globe that have rocked global markets and supply chains.
"We continue to have the most resilient economy in the world, driven by innovative and hardworking Americans who have shown that they are willing to make the needed sacrifices to defeat this invisible enemy.
"The President has taken bold action to leverage the expertise and resources of the entire Nation in this fight. Congress has confronted the seriousness of this challenge with trillions of dollars in relief funding for those impacted by the virus, establishing a firm footing for a swift and strong American comeback.
"When this chapter ends, America will be both stronger and healthier than ever because of the President’s decisive and timely actions."