In addition to issuing second-quarter figures, the Commerce Department on Thursday revised data for economic growth over the previous five years. The updates were mostly minor, especially in the context of this year’s huge declines. But they did restore some bragging rights to President Trump — while also giving new ones to his predecessor.
The government now says that U.S. gross domestic product grew 3 percent in 2018, up from the previously reported 2.9 percent. The difference isn’t significant economically, but it might matter politically: the president and his advisers repeatedly promised annual growth of at least 3 percent. (Mr. Trump has at other times promised growth of 4 percent or more.)
When the Commerce Department released its initial 2018 estimate, in February 2019, it looked as if Mr. Trump had met his goal: The report showed growth of 3.1 percent. But that talking point was wiped away when the figure was revised downward a few months later. Now, it has been pushed back up.
Mr. Trump may be less happy about another revision, however. The government now says that G.D.P. grew 3.1 percent in 2015, up from 2.9 percent before the update. Mr. Trump has in the past criticized his predecessor, Barack Obama, for never hitting 3 percent for a full year.
The revisions are part of an annual process to incorporate new data sources and apply updated methods. This year’s changes didn’t alter the overall picture: Growth has hovered around 2 percent a year, with any accelerations proving short-lived.
The 2018 boomlet was no exception. Growth slowed to 2.2 percent in 2019 (revised from 2.3 percent), and has plunged into negative territory this year because of the pandemic.