Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON - A bunch of economic numbers from the government this week, which should be taken with a large grain of salt, were expected to show the economy was doing much better in the past three months.

Well, we've seen these periodic, fragmentary numbers many times before, only to see the economy continue to slowly slog along at its painfully lackluster, jobs-challenged pace for the past six and a half years now.

President Obama will recite the exaggerated economic numbers that his cherry-picking speech writers select to prove that he's brought the economy back from the bring of recession. But the majority of the American people, the best barometer of how the economy is really doing, don't think so.

Only about four in 10 voters said they approved of his handling of the economy, according a Wall Street Journal- NBC poll conducted this month.

When asked to describe their views on the economy, two-thirds said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the economy and the general direction of the country.

Notably, Obama's overall approval rating dropped to a 40 percent low, the worst public rating of his presidency, the polling report said.

The Commerce Department was expected to announce Thursday that the economy grew by 4.0 percent in the second quarter (April to June), according to an earlier estimate by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). And no doubt the nightly news shows will report that number as new evidence that the economy has regained its full health and vigor.

But at closer look at the longer term economic numbers suggests that would not only be premature, but a mistaken prognosis of an underperforming, roller coaster economy whose health cannot be reliably measured in three-month spurts.

A more accurate reading of our economy's health is in its annual growth rate, and those rates have been weak and underwhelming throughout Obama's presidency.

Let's start with the disastrous first quarter growth rate that showed the economy didn't grow at all. It shrank by a a revised 2.1 percent.

That would mean the economy was growing at a rate of between 2 percent to 2.5 percent in the first six months of this year, economists said. A weak economic growth rate, no matter how you slice it.

U.S. manufactured goods rose last month rose by 22.6, largely driven by aircraft and auto sales. But subtract this always volatile transportation category, and durable goods orders actually fell 0.8 percent in July.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.