The economy: still not so good

The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that real GDP grew at an annualized rate of 1.5 percent in the second quarter of 2012. The good news is that this was faster than expectations. Moreover, first-quarter growth was revised up to 2 percent. Also good news.

The bad news? The numbers, 1.5 percent and 2 percent, aren't very good. And they're coming after a string of even worse numbers. From 2008 to 2011, real GDP grew at an average annual rate of 0.3 percent. To give you a sense of what a good decade looks like, GDP grew at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent in the 1990s.

It's also worth noting that initial GDP numbers are very noisy. So we could learn that the second quarter of 2012 was either much better or much worse than it currently appears. But given the sluggishness in the jobs data, and in other indicators like manufacturing, there's no particular reason to believe it will be much better.

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