Data: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized 32.9% rate in the second quarter — the worst-ever contraction on records that date back to 1947, the government said on Thursday.

Why it matters: Widespread lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the economy in a way that's never been seen in modern times, and hope for a swift recovery has been dashed as cases have surged nationwide.

Between the lines: The staggering contraction beats the last record set in 1958, when GDP shrank at an annualized 10% rate.

The big picture: The GDP report puts a number on the unprecedented damage we saw playing out in real-time from April to June: millions of jobs lost, tens of thousands of shuttered businesses and a record halt in activity.

  • "As horrific as the GDP number is, it's basically reporting something that we all already knew — that economic activity came to a screeching halt as the virus altered the contours of our lives. Millions lost their jobs, and the real issue is how our economy recovers," economist Justin Wolfers tweeted.
  • More recent data shows a renewed economic slowdown alongside worsening outbreaks across the country.

Worth noting: U.S. government data always "annualizes" the quarterly GDP figures — meaning the number assumes the pace the economy grew or shrunk last quarter will continue over the year.

  • Because the economy experienced a swift, marked deterioration in the second quarter that's unlikely to be repeated, economists are also looking at another figure: how much the economy shrank from the first quarter to the second quarter, which came in at -9.5% — still, the worst on record by that measure.

The bottom line: Any way you slice it, it's an ugly, historic economic contraction.

Go deeper

S&P 500 on the brink of a correction

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Data: FactSet, Chart: Axios Visuals

The S&P 500 hit its highest level ever earlier this month — but as September closes out, the index is teetering on the brink of correction territory.

Where it stands: As of Thursday’s close, the S&P 500 has sunk 9.3% below its record high. Slight gains on Thursday pushed it a bit further away from the 10% decline that would mark a correction — but investors say volatility could be here to stay.

Media prepares to fact check debates in real time

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

From live blogs to video chyrons and tweets, media companies are introducing new ways to fact check the presidential debates in real time this year.

Between the lines: The debates themselves are likely to leave less room for live fact-checking from moderators than a traditional news interview would.

Life after Roe v. Wade

The future seems clear to both parties: The Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade in the next few years, either gradually or in one fell swoop, and the abortion wars will move to a state-by-state battle over freedom and restrictions. 

What's new: Two of the leading activists on opposite sides of the abortion debate outlined for “Axios on HBO” the next frontiers in a post-Roe v. Wade world as the balance on the Supreme Court prepares to shift.