The U.S. government said this morning that the economy grew by 2.8 percent in the last three months of 2011.
The U.S. government said this morning that the economy grew by 2.8 percent in the last three months of 2011. - 

Jeremy Hobson: The government said this morning that the U.S. economy grew at a rate of 2.8 percent in the last three months of 2011. That's less than the 3 percent many economists were hoping for, but it's better than the previous quarter.

For more, let's bring in Gus Faucher. He's a senior economist with PNC Bank and he's with us live from Philadelphia. Good morning.

Gus Faucher: Good morning, Jeremy.

Hobson: So, Gus, is this 2.8 percent a good number, a bad number -- or neither?

Faucher: Well, it's an OK number. If the economy were doing well -- if the unemployment rate were 5 or 6 percent -- it'd be a very good number. But given that we still have a lot slack in the economy -- that the unemployment rate is 8.5 percent -- I'd have to say it's disappointing.

Hobson: Well I have to say, a lot of people seem to agree with you this morning that it's not what most people were hoping for. But if you compare it to other developed economies -- say, in Europe -- it is pretty good, right?

Faucher: That's certainly the case. It looks like Europe may be sliding into recession. They've got their financial crisis there; they're dealing with the effect of big government budget cuts. And so compared to Europe, we're doing a little bit better. But still, again, given where we are with the recovery, I would have liked to have seen stronger growth.

Hobson: What does this say about our recovery? We're four years out from the financial crisis -- is this an L-shaped recovery, one that just sort of dropped off and stayed flat?

Faucher: Well it's been a L-shaped recovery so far. I think there's a potential for it to turn into a U-shaped recovery -- a very shallow U -- where on the right-hand side, where we have growth picking up. You know, I do think we will see a stronger recovery over the next year or two, but we've had some significant drags that weigh on growth that's been disappointing.

Hobson: Gus Faucher is senior economist at PNC Bank.

Follow Jeremy Hobson at @jeremyhobson