The economy grew at a slightly faster pace over the summer as Americans spent a little more freely.
The government reported Friday morning that the economy expanded at a 2-percent annual rate in the July-September quarter. It marked a slight improvement from the feeble 1.7-percent growth in the April-June quarter. Still, the economy isn't growing at a strong enough pace to make a noticeable dent in high unemployment.
Consumers boosted spending at a 2.6-percent pace. That marked the biggest quarterly increase since a 4.1-percent gain at the end of 2006 before the recession hit.
In addition, employment costs posted another modest gain in the July-to-September quarter with compensation for state and local government employees turning in the weakest performance in nearly three decades.
Employment costs for civilian workers rose 0.4 percent in the third quarter and are up just 1.9 percent for the 12 months ending in September, the Labor Department reported Friday. High unemployment following a deep recession continues to depress workers' bargaining power.
State and local government workers, who have been battered by shrinking budgets, fared even worse than employees of private industry. Their compensation was flat in the third quarter and up only 1.7 percent in the past 12 months.
Both were the weakest showings on records that go back 28 years.
The 1.9-percent 12-month rise in compensation for all civilian workers was little changed from a 1.8-percent increase for the 12 months ending in June. Those gains are significantly below the 3.3-percent increase for the 12 months ending in December 2007, the month the recession began.
With more than 8 million jobs lost from December 2007 to December of last year, employees have not had the bargaining power to demand higher wages.
For the third quarter, wages and salaries for civilian workers rose 0.4 percent, matching the second quarter increase, while benefits were up 0.5 percent, also the same as the April-to-June quarter.
Wages and salaries make up 70 percent of employee compensation while benefits, which include health insurance and pensions, make up the other 30 percent.
For state and local workers, the flat reading on total compensation in the third quarter reflected a 0.3-percent drop in wages and salaries and a 0.7-percent rise in benefits.