As taper looms, what the real economy looks like

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke
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The Federal Reserve is preparing to ease the throttle on its historically easy monetary policy at a time when the economy remains in a decidedly unsettled position.

Growth, as measured through gross domestic product gains, has never exceeded 3 percent for any 12-month period in Chairman Ben Bernanke's nearly eight year tenure.

The central bank's two key measures that it uses to gauge the success of its dual mandate leave something to be desired as well.

Unemployment has fallen to 7.3 percent, but that is in large part the product of a labor force participation rate stuck at a 35-year low. Moreover, the rate remains well above the 6.5 percent level the Fed has targeted before it will begin raising rates.

Inflation, meanwhile, is barely 2 percent—below the Fed's 2.5 percent target and indicative of an economy that is not clear of a deflation specter.

Those numbers only tell part of the story, though.

For a better look at how the economy is doing and the success, or lack thereof, the Fed has had in stimulating things in the latest round of quantitative easing, it's worth it to take a deeper dive into some of the measures that feed into the broader picture.