Meanwhile, exports didn’t keep up with import growth. That suggests supply chain disruptions are making it hard for companies to export their products. Imports for raw materials, for example, have been slowed by both the war in Ukraine and covid shutdowns in China, Bostjancic said.

Fourth quarter GDP made first quarter GDP seem smaller

The first quarter inventory numbers also look worse because they compare to growth in the fourth quarter, which was boosted by a buildup in inventories just before the holiday season.

To get a better picture of the US economy, it makes more sense to average both the fourth and first quarter results, Bostjancic said. In fact, adding the two inventory builds between each quarter would make for the largest buildup since World War II, she noted.

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