Everything You Need to Know About the U.S. Economy in 13 Charts

With the calendar nearly closed on 2013, let's take a look at how the economy has performed in 2013 through simply glancing at 13 charts.

The market
First, we've seen resounding gains in the stock market in 2013. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) and Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) are up 27.5% and 24%, respectively, on the year: 

^SPX Chart

^SPX data by YCharts.

Companies across the board have delivered astounding results, and corporate profits are at all-time highs -- almost three times higher than where they stood in the fourth quarter of 2008:


Source: Federal Reserve.

While many have said the market has become entirely too expensive, consider that while valuations are high, they are still well below levels seen in the peaks before 1929, 1999, and even 2006 stock market crashes:



Source: Robert Shiller.

The market has stormed out to huge gains -- but thankfully, that's largely the result of improved businesses and not "irrational exuberance."

Housing
It is no secret that the run up and subsequent collapse of the housing market was one of the biggest contributors to the recession the United States and the world endured. And while things aren't nearly at the levels they were in 2007, the Case-Shiller Housing Index shows that through the first nine months of 2013, housing prices on average are up more than 10% year to date, and are almost 20% higher than where they were at the beginning of 2012:


Source: Federal Reserve.

This good news of housing price appreciation has led to American homeowners having more equity in their homes than debt for the first time since the third quarter of 2007. This ended a nearly six-year stretch where they had more debt than equity:


Source: Federal Reserve.

And while mortgage rates are on the rise, the reality is they still remain well below where they stood at the beginning of 2011:


Source: Federal Reserve.

Employment
Thankfully, though, it isn't simply the housing market that has recovered, but also the labor market, as the unemployment rate now stands at 7%, well below the 7.9% seen in January of this year, and drastically lower than the peaks that hovered around 10% in 2009 and 2010:


Source: Federal Reserve.

While the rate of jobs created hasn't been ideal, nonetheless, American companies have been steadily adding to the workforce with each passing quarter since the winter of 2010:


Source: Federal Reserve.

In fact, through the first 10 months of the year (the most recent available data), the U.S. has added more than 1.6 million jobs back into the economy:


Source: Federal Reserve.

The economy
The good news is, the recovery hasn't been driven simply by one sector, and as you can see, retail sales are charging back in a major way since the recession -- as shown in the gray shading -- and are even above the pre-crisis levels:


Source: Federal Reserve.

But it isn't simply retail that is charging back -- industrial production is making a comeback as well:


Source: Federal Reserve.

And of course, all of these things coupled together have allowed our gross domestic product -- which measures the output of the U.S. economy -- rise to historic peaks:


Source: Federal Reserve.

2013 has not been without its own amount of setbacks, troubles, and fears, but all in all, it's been quite a year for the U.S. economy, and all signs point to that continuing into next year.

Looking ahead
As you have seen, the market stormed out to huge gains across 2013 as the economy recovered, leaving investors on the sidelines burned. However, opportunistic investors can still find huge winners. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has just hand-picked one such opportunity in our new report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." To find out which stock it is and read our in-depth report, simply click here. It's free!


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2013, at 6:21 AM, MrRand wrote:

    Yo Pat, a couple of charts you forgot.

    1. National Public Debt

    2. Federal Reserve adjusted monetary base (AMBNS)

    Both are charts are historic in nature. You are fool sir for forgetting these very important charts. Do these charts just not fit your foolish ideology?

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2013, at 6:41 AM, serioso777 wrote:

    The usual BS, the only thing correct is the corporate profits, FK Corporate...

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