1. Florida Politics

Europe lags U.S. on road to economic recovery

The statement

The U.S. economy is "recovering slower than Europe."

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, in a TV interview

The ruling

The economic news from abroad is hardly inspiring these days: crushing Greek debt; 24 percent unemployment in Spain; Britain falling back into recession. So we wondered whether the United States' recovery really is trailing Europe's.

Economists told us a standard way to examine the pace of the economy is to examine growth in gross domestic product — the value of all goods and services produced in a country.

At the time McDonnell made his statement, quarterly GDP figures through the end of 2011 were the latest ones available.

Tables from the European Union show those 27 countries, on average, were growing faster than the United States in the first quarter of 2011 and that trends evened out in the second quarter. In the second half of last year, U.S. GDP was rising at a faster clip.

In the EU, GDP rose 1.1 percent in the third quarter of 2011 and but dropped 1 percent in the fourth quarter. The U.S. saw its economic output rise 1.8 percent in the third quarter and 3 percent in the fourth quarter.

Only five of 33 European nations grew faster than the United States in the second half of 2011: Poland, Iceland, Slovakia, Latvia and Lithuania. Iceland is not an EU member.

In the weeks and days before McDonnell made his statement, international organizations released growth projections for the United States and Europe for this year.

Figures released on April 17 by the International Monetary Fund show that U.S. GDP in 2012 is expected to grow 2.1 percent in 2012. That's a bit quicker than the 1.7 percent increase the United States saw through all of 2011.

Throughout Europe, GDP grew 2 percent in 2011, but that is expected to fall to 0.2 percent this year.

On March 29, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international group representing three dozen developed nations, released its projections for GDP growth in the first half of 2012.

"Our forecast for the first half of 2012 points to robust growth in the United States and Canada, but much weaker activity in Europe where the outlook remains fragile," Pier Carlo Padoan, the OECD's chief economist said in a news release.

Figures in the report show that U.S. GDP growth at the end of 2011 was outpacing the major economies in Europe — Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom — which were shrinking or barely growing. Through the first half of 2012, U.S. growth was expected to outpace all those European nations.

McDonnell said the U.S. recovery is slower than Europe's. But looking at the continent as a whole, the opposite is true.

We rate McDonnell's statement False.

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