The third quarter actually went into positive territory at 2.8% for the first time since the second quarter of 2008.
One event that has likely contributed to the general downward trend in real GDP is the decline in housing prices, or the bursting of the housing bubble. According to the Case-Shiller housing index (Standard and Poor's, 2009), housing prices peaked in the second quarter of 2006 and declined thereafter until first quarter 2009. One direct consequence of declining home values is a decline in household wealth, which will likely lead consumers to spend less, since having less money will translate to spending less money. Furthermore, if declining home values lead to default and foreclosures, those consumers will have even less money available for spending. Given that according to the 2008 real GDP figures, consumption is 70% of GDP (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2009), lower consumption will mean lower GDP.
Another event which likely explains some of the GDP movement is the financial meltdown which occurred in September 2008, with the government bailouts of AIG, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. With the loss of confidence in the stability of financial markets, the stock market that was at 11,544 in the end of August 2008 fell to 10,918 on September 15, 2008 and was at 8,451 by October 10, 2008 (Dow Jones, 2009). This decline in stock values not only reduces household wealth, which adversely affects consumer spending, but also gives consumers less confidence in the economy. ...