The US economy grew at a relatively healthy 3.2 percent annual rate in the final quarter of 2010, the Commerce Department reported Friday. That is an improvement from a 2.6 percent rate in the third quarter. But to many Americans, it's hard to tell if anything is really better. Buried in the new report are clues to why that is – and what might happen to the economy in the year ahead. Here are five things that the government’s preliminary report on gross domestic product reveals about the health of the economy.
Though the unemployment rate dipped to 8.5 percent last month, it remains uncomfortably high for a president seeking reelection. Economists crunch the numbers to see if it's possible for unemployment to dip to 8 percent by Election Day.
Central banks in a surprise announcement Wednesday announce moves to ease strains in the global financial system. Central banks' moves should ease concerns over European banks but does not begin to solve long-term problems of European debt.
Black Friday weekend may give economists a snapshot of how shoppers are feeling going into the holiday season. Even though some consumer numbers are sluggish, Americans may spend when they hit the malls.
Not since at least 1960 has the US standard of living fallen so fast for so long. The average American has $1,315 less in annual disposable income now than at the onset of the Great Recession.
Weekly unemployment claims dropped below 400,000 in the most recent report. While some see this as a signal that the economy is firming up, others caution that more positive indicators are needed.
Gold prices tumbled 6 percent after hitting a new record in late April. Investors who sense trouble ahead expect gold prices to surge higher. But other precious metals are poised to rise if the recovery strengthens.