Today, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released some moderately disappointing news about the economy, saying we enjoyed a 2.2 percent growth rate in the fourth quarter of last year. That's an okay number, but it's a slowdown from where we were in the third quarter and adds up to an overall very "meh" 2014.
But the White House Council of Economic Advisers takes a more optimistic view of the trend, and their case has some merit.
CEA chair Jason Furman is touting this chart:
As you can see, by this measure the economy is speeding up rather than slowing down. But is it a good measure?
GDP is something you've probably heard of, while the chart's number — real private final domestic purchases — is awfully obscure. But it's arguably a better indicator of where things are going. Private final domestic purchases means you basically remove three things from the GDP number:
- Government purchases
- Business inventories
The idea is that these three factors can show a ton of moment-to-moment instability. They matter in the long run, but in the short run they arguably mostly add noise to the picture. When you strip them out, you see an economy that is still not doing amazingly well, but is definitely on an upward trend.