The findings suggest the economy cannot sustain the galloping 5.7% annual growth rate the government reported for the fourth quarter of 2009.

“Don’t put your party hats on yet,” says Edward Leamer, the UCLA economic forecaster who helped create the index. “We were hoping our index would be stronger, symptomatic of an economy powerful enough to start putting Americans back to work.”

The Journal also found the index worth a look, though with modest play:

The report comes at a time where most economists agree the economy is recovering, albeit without much vigor and with no job gains. Most also believe that, after inventory-related factors powered decent gains in the nation’s gross domestic product over the final months of 2009, growth will moderate, although they do expect job losses to soon give way to modest increases.

These days, as Leonhardt and Wolf make clear, what we really need is economic reporting that goes deeper than the headline numbers—ideally with shoe-leather reporting&mdash and reminds us that, while some big numbers might be good for the moment,and some long-term lines might even be headed north, the economy still has a ways to go, and, really, the current pace isn’t getting us there.

Holly Yeager is CJR's Peterson Fellow, covering fiscal and economic policy. She is based in Washington and reachable at