WASHINGTON - The news media was ecstatic when the government said in January that the economy grew by 3.2 percent in the last three months of 2013. It was convincing proof, they said on the nightly news, that the economy had finally recovered from its chronic lethargy.
But according to a revised estimate released Thursday by the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis, that 3.2 percent figure was a wild exaggeration.
The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of our country's entire economic output, grew no more than 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter -- a pitifully low growth rate for the largest economy in the world.
"Averaged across the four quarters of last year, real GDP added 1.9 percent in 2013 from 2012," said Forbes web site reported.
You didn't hear about this on the nightly network news on Thursday? I'm not surprised. More often than not, the network news tends to ignore poor economic data, while exaggerating the significance of occasional numbers that they say proves the Obama economy is turning around.
But 1.9 percent growth for all of last year is dreadful by any comparison, and economists aren't expecting anything much better than somewhere around 2 percent in the first quarter and maybe beyond.
By any relevant comparison, this is another sign that the U.S. economy continues to stumble along at a weak, sub-par pace in the sixth year of Barack Obama's economically unfulfilled presidency.
It's "hardly the 4 to 5 percent [growth rate] needed to provide enough jobs and restore housing prices to pre-recession levels," says Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland's School of Business.
That's the kind of robust economic growth rate we need to produce 350,000 jobs a month to boost employment to pre-recession levels.
Instead, the economy is producing up to, and often far less than, 200,000 jobs a month -- nowhere near what is needed to put Americans back to work.
Obama's underperforming economy created a little over 100,000 jobs in January, and a disappointing 175,000 in February, with little expectations of significantly larger job numbers in the months to come. Indeed, the jobless rate inched up last month to 6.7 percent because of the weak jobs numbers and a growing number of discouraged long term job seekers who have quit looking for work.
If all of these uncounted discouraged workers began looking for a job again, the real unemployment rate would be 9.6 percent, Morici says.