In fact, the contraction in spending on housing construction subtracted a full percentage point from U.S. real GDP growth last year, and nearly as much the year before. It seems likely that this sector will be a major drag on the overall economy through the end of this year and into 2009.
Until recently, the deflating housing bubble had not spilled over to the rest of the economy. But now it has. It appears that growth in consumption and business investment spending has slowed markedly after years of robust performance, and, as a result, the economy has all but stalled and could even contract over the first half of the year.
The factors weighing down consumer spending go beyond the effects of the credit crunch and the falling house prices. Consumers also face constraints due to the declines in the stock market, which have diminished their wealth. Furthermore, energy, food, and other commodity prices have risen sharply in recent years, essentially “taxing” their incomes. Finally, and very importantly, labor markets have weakened.