No doubt, the economy was the top issue for voters on Election Day, and many paid particular attention to the news about jobs. Overall this year, the economy has created about 150,000 to 175,000 jobs a month, which was enough to slowly reduce the unemployment rate from 8.5 percent in January to 7.7 percent in November. Although that latest figure is close to the lowest level in four years, the economy is still not producing enough jobs to help the long-term unemployed or give full-time jobs to people who can find only part-time work.
In other key indicators, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 12 percent for the year through early December, and gross domestic product went from a 2 percent annual growth rate in the first quarter to a 1.3 percent rate in the second quarter to a 2.7 percent rate in the third quarter. The fourth-quarter figure, however, is not expected to be above 2 percent.
The economy has a few bright spots: Americans have been back in showrooms buying new cars at the best pace in four years, and demand has picked up for new housing. Still, depending on what happens in Washington, economists expect only modest improvement for the economy as a whole going into 2013.
– Ron Scherer, Staff writer