If you went no further than noticing that the q/q annualized growth rate of -0.3% was faster than the -0.5 in the Bloomberg consensus, you might have taken this as good news. I'm not going to say it wasn't good news (relatively speaking), although negative growth makes the case for recession pretty good according to Jeff Frankel (who is on the NBER BCDC); see also RealTime Economics. However, there are some pretty interesting things that merit additional discussion.
I think that most observers will concur with assertion that the -3.1% decline in consumption q/q annualized was the most important aspect, as highlighted in Jim's post. To place the consumption drop in perspective, consider the q/q changes in GDP and consumption over the last forty years. The last time consumption growth went negative was in the 1990-91 recession. Figure 1 show the growth rates (not contributions to GDP).
Figure 1: Quarter-on-quarter annualized growth rates of real GDP (blue) and consumption (red), calculated as log-differences. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: BEA, NIPA release of 30 October 2008, NBER, and author's calculations.
What is the composition of this consumption decline? Figure 2 shows the contribution of each consumption aggregate to GDP growth. It's apparent that the consumption decline is widespread, spanning all categories. Durables I expected to decline, given the procyclicality of consumer durable expenditures. The decline in services and nondurables, however, signals either more binding credit constraints, a downward revision in permanent income, or both.
Figure 2: Consumption contribution to GDP growth (tan bars), durables contribution (red), non-durables contribution (green) and services contribution (teal), in percentage points. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray.