Mass layoffs nearly every week; 11 interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve Board; an official end to a record-long boom; a four-day stock-market shutdown after Sept. 11. Here's a broad look at one of the wildest economic years in memory.
The key federal funds target rate, which began the year at 6.5 percent, now stands at 1.75 percent - a 40-year low. Frequently, the cuts failed to give much of an immediate boost to the market (right). Gross domestic product also slipped this year - the 1.1 percent dive in the third quarter was the biggest in a decade.
Retail sales (below, right) have been particularly grim lately, with a record 3.7 percent plunge last month. Both the October and November figures were skewed, however, by auto sales, which soared in October as dealers offered zero-percent financing deals, and then tailed off again last month. Falling gas prices also pushed the numbers down in November.
Layoffs have also been rampant this year - a total of 799,000 jobs disappeared in October and November alone. Economists expect the unemployment rate (below) to climb further before it goes down, but already there are some positive signs: The number of people filing new jobless claims (below) has dropped off in recent weeks.