White House: New data shows recovery 'continuing to gain traction'
Orange lights to celebrate Halloween illiminate the White House in Washington (AFP)

A White House grasping for any good news during a grim political run on Thursday seized on new government figures showing a surprise spurt of economic growth.

Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, said the 2.8 percent annualized pace of GDP growth in the third quarter showed the recovery was gathering pace.

But he warned that the government shutdown saga that saw hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed last month would hit future growth -- and implicitly blamed Republicans.

"During the third quarter, the economy grew at its fastest pace in a year, an indication that the recovery was continuing to gain traction in the months before the government shutdown," Furman wrote in a White House blog post.

"We now have an opportunity to build on this progress by increasing certainty for businesses and investing in jobs and growth, while avoiding the types of self-inflicted wounds that restrained the economy in the early part of the fourth quarter."

Furman noted that several forecasting organizations had pegged the hit to GDP growth in the fourth quarter at between 0.2 and 0.6 percentage points and said that there were signs the drama also weighed on the wider economy and consumer sentiment.

Official fourth quarter growth figures will not be available until early next year.

The growth figures published by the Commerce Department Thursday surprised analysts who had banked on a 1.9 percent figure.

They offered a rare moment of optimism for a White House battered by controversies over the botched launch of the new Obamacare health insurance law and a National Security Agency spying row fueled by leaks by fugitive US contractor Edward Snowden.

President Barack Obama will be likely to address the growth spurt, and blame Republicans for holding the US economy hostage, when he travels to New Orleans on Friday to give an speech on the economy.