Appearances can be deceptive. The 0.5% rise in UK gross domestic product (GDP) in the first three months of the year completed a series of 'good' headlines for the government ahead of next week's polls on local government and electoral reform.
The GDP increase followed a 0.5% decline in the final quarter of last year (revised from an earlier estimate of a 0.6% fall). So the economy has not fallen back into recession. Inflation fell in March, retail sales improved despite a dire picture painted by the British Retail Consortium, and public borrowing fell.
However, the GDP figures simply mean the economy is where it was six months ago - it has stagnated.
Better figures were forecast just a month ago. The business paper the Financial Times described the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures as "weak", suggesting they amounted to "probably a contraction in the economy". Since snow was blamed for the decline in the previous quarter, the FT pointed out, "returning to pre-December levels of activity should automatically have produced 0.5% growth".
It added: "Some of the activity displaced from the fourth quarter might have been expected to boost growth above 0.5% in the first three months of the year as businesses forced to close in December caught up with work in January and February."
In any case, economists warn that preliminary growth figures are often heavily revised. In fact, Goldman Sachs economist Kevin Daly went so far as to say of the ONS: "It almost appears to be a random number generator."
Separately, the European Commission statistical agency Eurostat expressed "a reservation on the quality of the data reported by the UK" in relation to government debt and "the recording [of] military expenditure".
The GDP figures also threw some straws in the wind. Consumer spending on hotels and restaurants did not come back at the headline rate of 5% but at 3%. Construction output - often a bellwether for the economy as a whole - fell by 4.7%, double the rate of decline in the snow-affected last quarter, and production output rose by only half as much (0.4%) as in the previous three months.
By contrast, the economic contribution from government services - heavily pruned from April - increased by 0.7% in January to March.
In the words of National Institute of Economic and Social Research director Jonathon Portes: "The figures are very bad indeed; arguably even worse than the last quarter."