How the U.S. Economy Had a Year for the Record Books

Here's Why 2018 Was a Standout Year for the Economy

We’re finishing one of the most interesting years in a long time. Aside from all the volatility in the market and politics, 2018 has also been pivotal for the U.S. economy.

Today’s post will review some of the historic milestones achieved since last December. Some of them could bring lasting changes to American business and labor well into the future.

  1. Employment: The strong job market was the biggest and hardest-to-miss story. Key metrics of distress, like unemployment and jobless claims, fell to their lowest levels since 1969. We also had the unprecedented situation of job openings outnumbering the ranks of job seekers. As explained by Market Insights, it appears that companies simply eliminated too many workers last decade and now have no more fat to trim!
  2. Manufacturing: U.S. factories also clawed back from major downsizing during the Bush years. Government numbers show 249,000 manufacturing jobs added in the first 11 months of 2018. If that pace holds when December’s numbers come out next week, it will be the strongest year of gains since 1997.
  3. Oil production: Thanks to shale fields and fracking, the U.S. is now pumping more than 11 million barrels of crude oil per day. That all-time record has left the Saudis and other OPEC countries struggling for relevance. (Equipping those rigs also gave a boost to U.S. factories.)
  4. GDP growth: Gross domestic product expanded 4.2 percent in the second quarter. It was the first reading over the psychologically important 4 percent level since the end of 2014.
  5. Fed rate hikes: Not only did the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate range hit the highest level in over a decade at 2.25-2.5 percent. The central bank also hiked four times in 2018, the most in a single year since 2005. The subprime crisis is finally history! Jerome Powell has ripped off the band-aid.

In conclusion, 2018 wasn’t just a remarkable year in the market. It also had plenty of standouts for the economy.

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David Russell is VP of Market Intelligence at TradeStation Group. Drawing on nearly two decades of experience as a financial journalist and analyst, his background includes equities, emerging markets, fixed-income and derivatives. He previously worked at Bloomberg News, CNBC and E*TRADE Financial. Russell systematically reviews countless global financial headlines and indicators in search of broad tradable trends that present opportunities repeatedly over time. Customers can expect him to keep them appraised of sector leadership, relative strength and the big stories – especially those overlooked by other commentators. He’s also a big fan of generating leverage with options to limit capital at risk.