The U.S. Economy Today
This article is excerpted from the book Outline of the U.S. Economy, published by the Bureau of International Information Programs.
The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) stood at $15 trillion in 2011. Measured by purchasing power parity exchange rates (equalizing what people can buy with different currencies), that came to about 1.3 times the size of the second largest economy, that of China (whose population is more than four times that of the United States) and more than three times the GDP of third-ranked Japan. With just 4.5 percent of the world's population, the United States was responsible for 19 percent of total economic output.
In 2011, U.S. GDP per person was $48,100, compared with a worldwide average of $11,800. The economy generated more than $40 billion a day in goods and services, drawing its fuel from the labor of the 153 million Americans who make up the workforce. Providing more fuel were the billions of dollars that Americans invested daily in their businesses and homes, exclusive of government spending, and the nation's resources of minerals, energy, water, forests and farmland.
The productivity of American working men and women remains a standard for the world. In 2011, the average American worker produced more than $62 of goods and services per hour; the average worker in the European Union produced only 71 percent as much; and the average Chinese worker produced less than 20 percent as much, according to the U.S. Conference Board business organization.
A long trend of strong productivity growth has helped the United States maintain relatively low unemployment and inflation during most of the period since World War II.
U.S. labor productivity growth fell to 0.8 percent in 2008 but rebounded to 1.6 percent in 2009 and 2.7 percent in 2010.
The World Economic Forum, whose annual conferences bring together top international government and corporate leaders, has regularly ranked the United States as the world's most competitive economy. Major U.S. companies have remained competitive in international markets through a determined focus on innovation, cost reduction and the return of profits to shareholders. Of the 2011 Fortune magazine list of the 500 largest corporations worldwide, the United States was first with headquarters of 133, Japan was second with 68 and China third with 61.
American technology leadership continues to expand from its current strengths in computers, software, multimedia, advanced materials, health science and biotechnology into the frontiers of nanotechnology and genetics. The American dollar remains the centerpiece of international commerce but competes with the euro, Japanese yen and, just starting now, Chinese yuan.
When Barack Obama took office as president in January 2009, the immediate economic crisis - and its implications for future U.S. economic growth and prosperity - dominated his agenda.
Speaking just before his inauguration, Obama acknowledged the severity of the challenges facing the United States. But he also reminded the nation of its heritage and of its inherent strengths. "We should never forget that our workers are still more productive than any on Earth. Our universities are still the envy of the world. We are still home to the most brilliant minds, the most creative entrepreneurs, and the most advanced technology and innovation that history has ever known. And we are still the nation that has overcome great fears and improbable odds."
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)