First, what are we looking at...
- Blue line: real GDP per capita (in 2005 dollars)
- Red line: same 1951 starting point in real GDP terms, growing at the 2.15% annualized rate seen from 1951 through 2001 (hence the two lines intersect in June 2001)
- Yellow line: the difference between the two
- Real GDP per capita is currently at March 2005 (6+ years ago) levels
- We are currently "below trend" (if you believe in trend) by $7000 per person (assuming all 300+ million people share the growth equally)
- Real GDP per capita growth actually turned negative in Q1 2011 (flipped positive in Q2)
- Despite the end the recession, the gap between real GDP per capita and trend is growing
Bulls would say "if you believe at all in mean reversion, then the U.S. economy is bound to bounce back". Bears would say "this time truly is different and the recession didn't wipe out excesses (i.e. debt, imbalances between classes, etc...), thus we still have a way to go".
Source: Population / Real GDP