Like a number on the Richter Scale, here comes the number that will put the economic damage into some quanitiable, knowable form: 6.3%. The economy has shrunk 6.3%. Yet, that’s still a little fuzzy. So let’s say we started off with 100 economies. Right now, if my math is correct, we’d have 93.7 economies. Of course, this was the rate of shrinkage only for the fourth quarter.

The point is, these economic number are important, but they don’t tell the whole story. In fact, the most pertinent economic data to the average American is pretty darn simple: The jobless rate. There are other indicators that can give the pulse of the economy, but the jobless rate is really like listening to the beating heart.

So yes, the economy shrunk 6.3% in the fourth quarter of last year. But no, don’t panic.

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