Bush economic numbers betters Clinton's 96 figures

Rich Lowry:


"The numbers speak of strong overall economic growth. The gross domestic product -- the figure for the total output economy -- grew at an 8.2 percent rate in the third quarter of 2003, and at a 4 percent rate in the fourth quarter. The GDP is forecast to grow at a 4.5 percent rate in 2004. As economist J. Edward Carter writes: 'For the third consecutive year, the U.S. economy is poised to grow faster than most other industrialized economies. France, Germany and Japan, for instance, are not expected to grow even half as fast as the United States.'

"The numbers indicate an economy constantly finding new and better ways to work. Nonfarm productivity -- a crucial indicator of economic efficiency that corresponds over the long term with higher wages and greater national wealth -- grew at a healthy 4.2 percent rate in 2003. During Bush's first three years in office, productivity has been increasing at a 4.1 percent annual rate, the best start to any presidential term in roughly 50 years.

"The numbers highlight a booming housing market. The rate of homeownership hit 68.6 percent during the past three months of 2003, an all-time high. Sales for new and existing homes were also at all-time highs last year. Housing starts have jumped 26 percent since 2001, and the 30-year fixed mortgage rate has dropped 20 percent, from 7.06 percent to 5.66 percent.


"The numbers provide some perspective on Bush's biggest political liability: lagging job growth. Since reaching a high of 6.3 percent in June 2003, the unemployment rate has dipped to 5.6 percent, lower than the average unemployment rate of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

"The numbers even like George Bush more than Bill Clinton. According to J. Edward Carter's calculation, during the first three years of the Bush administration compared with the first three years of the Clinton administration, the inflation rate is lower (1.9 percent versus 2.6 percent), the unemployment rate is lower (5.5 percent versus 6.2 percent), annual productivity growth is higher (4.1 percent versus .5 percent), and the increase in nonfarm real compensation per hour is higher (+0.8 percent versus -0.3 percent)."


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