Donald Lambro

The government's latest reports that the economy grew at a 3.6 percent annual rate in the third quarter and created 203,000 new jobs last month left out a lot of caveats.

Moreover, the network news media's hyperbolic reports that the economy was surging at full throttle, and the job market was strengthening, needed to be taken with a large grain of salt, too.

The truth is that the economic growth rate isn't what it's cracked up to be, and the employment figures contained a large number of "part time" holes.

The Commerce Department's surprising report that the gross domestic product, (GDP) expanded by 3.6 percent between July and September was much more the result of a backlog in unsold business inventories caused by weak consumer demand than that of a growing economy.

The Obama administration crowed that the GDP figure showed the economy was in full recovery, but economists saw many weaknesses beneath the figures.

"With third quarter GDP growth at 3.6 percent, businesses should be adding more jobs, but much of that growth was from additions to business inventories as consumers remain tightfisted and goods stay on the shelves," wrote University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici.

The bone hard, economic reality behind that percentage is that "overall consumer demand contributed about 1 percentage points to growth, whereas inventories accounted for 1.7 percent," Morici explained.

Indeed, the Washington Post reported Friday that the third quarter pace "is unlikely to be sustained through the end of the year."

"The recovery fundamentally remains on the same slow and steady track that it has followed since the recession ended in 2009," the Post said. In fact, many economists now say they expect the economy's fourth quarter growth to decline to "less than 2 percent", the newspaper said.

The news media's exaggerated reports that Americans were pouring into the stores and buying up goods left and right doesn't hold up to closer inspection, either.

"Major apparel retailers report huge stocks of unsold goods entering the final weeks of holiday shopping. More broadly, Black Friday weekend disappointed their expectations for stronger sales than last year," says Morici.

Notably, the Reuters' news agency reported that third quarter consumer spending was the slowest since the last three months of 2009.

Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of all U.S. economic activity, but it was revised downward in the government's latest figures to a barely-breathing 1.4 percent rate.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.