Why should we care about GDP?

Job seekers wait in line for a job fair in Chicago, Ill.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: A word now about tomorrow's big news. The recession's going to be over. Semi-officially, anyway. Unless something goes horribly wrong between now and tomorrow morning, the Commerce Department's going to announce the economy grew in the third quarter. Maybe as much as 2.5 or 3 percent. That will be small solace to the nearly 10 percent of the work force that's out of work. And the millions who're still upside-down on their mortgages. So our Rico Gagliano had just one question.


RICO GAGLIANO: Who cares about GDP? If our actual lives aren't getting better, why should we care that a number got larger?

Diane Swonk is chief economist with Mesirow Financial. She says the big number means we've avoided a big calamity.

DIANE SWONK: The best news is that we're no longer particularly in a free fall. It's now become the Great Recession and not a repeat of the Great Depression, although it's still depressing. And I guess less bad is now good.

But avoiding disaster is not the same as happily-ever after.

Bill Cheney is chief economist at John Hancock Financial. He's optimistic about the economy, but says this latest growth was spurred by short-term programs that won't last.

BILL CHENEY: The Cash-For-Clunkers program was a one-time deal that ran out. The homebuyers tax credit, even if it's extended, it still has a short shelf life as it were.

The secret to a sustainable recovery? Economist Diane Swonk says: More jobs. Without 'em, another credit or energy crunch could trigger another dip into recession.

SWONK: The uncertainty and the risk of having that double-dip is still real. That's why no one's popping champagne corks, but they're still drinking lots of cheap wine.

In Los Angeles, I'm Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.

About the author

Rico Gagliano is the host of Dinner Party Download.

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