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2013 By the Numbers: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by Edward Alden
December 30, 2013

The numbers "2013" are illuminated atop 1 Times Square (Gary He/Courtesy Reuters). The numbers "2013" are illuminated atop 1 Times Square (Gary He/Courtesy Reuters).


As 2013 fades into 2014, it seems like a good time to do a quick performance check on the United States. CFR’s Renewing America initiative is premised on the understanding that the United States’ ability to influence world events rests on a robust, competitive economy. While any given year is at best a snapshot in a very long game, some of the numbers from this year are nonetheless quite striking (and more on the positive side than not). And so, with apologies to Clint Eastwood, my snap assessment.

The Good

Economic growth – The U.S. economy grew at a 4.1 percent annualized rate in the third quarter of 2013, the highest rate since 2011.

Unemployment rateFell to 7.0 percent, down from 7.9 percent in January, 2013.

Manufacturing jobsUp 530,000 since February 2010, the biggest increase since the early 1980s. But jobs for women in manufacturing fell by 11,000, to the lowest share since 1971.

U.S. trade deficitDown 10.6 percent from the same period in 2012, largely due to strong export growth.

U.S. oil production – Predicted to be up 800,000 barrels/day through 2016, to 9.5 million barrels/day, just shy of the 1970 record.

U.S. budget deficitDown 37 percent in FY2013 to $680 billion, the first time since 2008 that the deficit has fallen below $1 trillion.

The Bad

Rising income inequality – From 2009-2012, incomes for the top one percent of income earners rose 31.4%, while those for the remaining 99 per cent grew only 0.4%. Income inequality is the greatest since 1928.

State, local and federal government spending on infrastructureDown by more than $60 billion annually since 2010.

International Test Scores – In the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, American students ranked 26th among OECD nations in math, 17th in reading and 24th in science. But test scores may not be the best measures of achievement.

Labor force participation rateAt 63 percent, it has continued to fall throughout the year, and remains below the pre-recession level of 66 percent.

The Ugly

The U.S. government shutdown – Estimated to have cost the United States economy $24 billion, shaving 0.6 percent off third quarter economic growth.

Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Mike Guillot

    It seems to me the most troublesome part of this article is the low labor participation rate. Obviously this contributes to the first ‘bad’ listing–income inequality. My concern is, the number of unskilled, uneducated workers will be difficult to curtail leading to long term social implications. In each era there are three classes of people: those unable to deal with change, a second group I would term the strattle generation–half will be able to change, half won’t, and a third group who grew up during the changes and fully embrace them–think technology. This stratification begs the question: have we as a nation lost our ability to effectively deal with rapid change for the benefit of the masses?

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