(The Center Square) - Newly released economic figures showed that the U.S. economy grew more than expected last quarter.
The Commerce Department released the data Thursday showing that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 6.9 percent in the last quarter of 2021. That figure exceeded experts' predictions of 5.5 percent growth and far outpaced the previous quarter's 2.3 percent increase.
"The acceleration in real GDP in the fourth quarter primarily reflected an upturn in exports, accelerations in private inventory investment and PCE, and smaller decreases in residential fixed investment and federal government spending that were partly offset by a downturn in state and local government spending," the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) said. "Imports accelerated."
The increase in economic growth from October through December led to a healthy growth year in 2021, despite weaker growth earlier in the year.
"GDP growth dramatically outpaced forecasts made a year ago. Most forecasters expected the economy to grow 3 to 4 percent this year," said Jason Furman, former advisor to President Barack Obama and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute. "Instead it has grown 5.5 percent. That is more than a percentage point faster than even the most optimistic forecast was expecting."
The federal agency said COVID-19 is still a significant factor affecting economic increase.
"The increase in fourth quarter GDP reflected the continued economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the fourth quarter, COVID-19 cases resulted in continued restrictions and disruptions in the operations of establishments in some parts of the country," BEA said in its release of the numbers. "Government assistance payments in the form of forgivable loans to businesses, grants to state and local governments, and social benefits to households all decreased as provisions of several federal programs expired or tapered off."
The full economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be quantified in the GDP estimate for the fourth quarter because the impacts are generally embedded in source data and cannot be separately identified," the agency added.