Donald Lambro

Economists said that when they looked at all the base numbers behind that 2.8 percent, there's less there than meets the eye, if you excuse the expression.

Pushing up the three month GDP rate was "a buildup in business inventories amid slack sales," says Washington Post economic reporter Ylan Q. Mui.

Consumer spending has slowed down amid widespread uncertainty that has long plagued the Obama economy, so inventory buildup is expected to be smaller in the fourth quarter that will slow future growth.

While the nightly network news shows touted the GDP number, which was expected to come in around 2 percent, economists said it was full of holes.

The economic report was "deceptively weak," said Alan MacEachin, the Navy Federal Credit Union's corporate economist. "You drill down below the surface, and you can see what's going on."

For example, exclude the temporary business inventory build-up, and the economy really grew by just 2 percent.

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all GDP, and the report showed spending growth had slowed down to a weaker 1.5 percent annual rate.

"This is not an economy that is firing on all cylinders," said James Marple, senior economist for TD Economics.

In a memo to clients, Barclay economist Peter Newland said "household and business demand remain notably soft."

Meantime, last month's 204,000 job creation number was higher than forecasts of 120,000, though the nation's unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent as far more jobless Americans began looking for work.

Yet the total labor force continued to shrink as many more discouraged jobless people have stopped searching for work.

About one third of the nation's 11.3 million jobless have been looking for work for six months or more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 720,000 of them dropped out of the labor force in October and thus are no longer counted as unemployed. The Post's Mui called that "an unusually large decline."

Obama's economic policies, especially Obamacare's job-killing mandates on businesses, have shrunk the labor force and thus weakened America's economic might. "The job market is actually narrowing. There's a smaller group of people working," says Wells Fargo chief economist John Silva.

A shrinking labor force, and fewer Americans working, mean slower economic growth in the years to come.

Indeed, many economists do not see economic growth returning to pre-recession growth rates anytime soon.

When you add in part-time workers who want and need full time work and discouraged drop out workers, the true jobless rate becomes 13.8 percent, says economist Peter Morici at the University of Maryland School of Business.

Gallup's latest surveys show the "underemployment" rate - part- timers who want full-time work - at 16.6 percent.

It would take 360,000 new jobs a month to pound the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, but "that would require GDP growth in the range of 4 to 5 percent," Morici says. Under Obama, GDP growth over the last four years has been a minuscule 2.3 percent.

Democrats and the White House say stronger economic growth isn't possible in the age of "the new normal." But just four years into the Reagan recovery, economic growth was a robust 5.8 percent, and job creation was soaring,

You rarely or never hear Obama's name mentioned in any of the economic news stories about all this. But if you're looking for the chief reason why our economy is still in this mess, it begins and ends with him.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.