U.S. GDP in the last three months of 2009 soared by 5.7%. That's good news, but the number doesn't tell the whole story. Dan digs into the figure to find out what's growing and what isn't, but to get a more complete picture of our economic growth, check out the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (NAI) -- what Barry Ritholz calls "the best economic indicator you've never heard of."
The newest NAI report on 2009's fourth quarter is out, and it's not as sanguine as GDP.
Here's the chart:
What's happening here? The short version is this: The economy started to rally dramatically last summer, but the recovery has stalled since September.
Here's the longer, more informative version. NAI tracks 85 economic indicators, which lumped into four big categories: production and income (P&I); employment, unemployment, and hours (EU&H); personal consumption and housing (C&H); and sales, orders, and inventories (SO&I). The graph below explains how these categories performed in the second half of 2009.
Some lessons from this chart: Production has been positive for six months. Employment continues to languish. This shouldn't surprise us. Not only does GDP improve faster than employment, but also Larry Summers admitted to the New Yorker that the stimulus plan specifically targeted production over jobs. (Megan will have more on the prospects of a jobless recovery later today....)