IBJNews

U.S. economic growth shows only slight improvement

Associated Press
October 26, 2012
Keywords
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The U.S. economy grew at a slightly faster 2-percent annual rate from July through September, according to preliminary estimates, buoyed by more spending by consumers and the federal government.

Growth accelerated from the 1.3-percent rate in the April-June quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. Even with the increase, growth remains too weak to rapidly boost hiring. Historically, from 1947 until 2012, the quarterly rate averaged 3.25 percent.

The incomplete report, which is subject to future revisions, is the last snapshot of the economy before Americans choose a president in 11 days.

Republican nominee Mitt Romney has criticized President Barack Obama's handling of the economy and has noted that the pace of growth has slowed from last year. The 1.74-percent annual growth rate for the first nine months of 2012 remains slightly behind last year's 1.8-percent growth.

Still, the pickup in growth could lend weight to Obama's message that the economy is improving.

"Growth came in a little higher than we had feared, largely because of the big jump in federal spending," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics. "But the economy is still not growing rapidly enough to create sufficient jobs to reduce the unemployment rate."

The economy grew faster last quarter in part because consumer spending rose at a 2-percent annual rate, up from a 1.5-percent rate in the second quarter. Spending on homebuilding and renovations increased at an annual rate of more than 14 percent.

And federal spending surged, mainly because of the sharpest increase in defense spending in more than three years.

Growth was held back by the first drop in exports in more than three years and flat business investment in equipment and software.

The economy was also slowed by the effects of the severe drought that struck last summer in the Midwest. The drought cut agriculture stockpiles and reduced the annual growth rate by nearly a half-point. Once crop supplies return to normal, they will help boost economic growth, analysts noted.

The government's report covers gross domestic product. GDP measures the nation's total output of goods and services — from restaurant meals and haircuts to airplanes, appliances and highways.

It was the government's first of three estimates of growth for the July-September quarter. And it sketched a picture that's been familiar all year: The economy is growing at a tepid rate, slowed by high unemployment and corporate anxiety over an unresolved budget crisis and a slowing global economy.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said the first estimate was based on incomplete data and could be revised upward or downward. The second estimate will be released Nov. 29. Growth rates from first estimates in the previous two quarters have been revised downward on further estimates.

It is unclear what effect, if any, Friday's report might have on the presidential race. Some analysts said they doubted it would sway many undecided voters in battleground states.

University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers tweeted that it was ridiculous to "judge a presidency on one mildly positive yet-to-be-revised backward-looking quarterly datapoint."

The factors supporting the economy's growth are shifting. Exports and business investment drove much of the growth after the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009. But those sectors are weakening. Consumer spending, meantime, has picked up. And housing is adding to growth after a six-year slump.

Consumer spending drives nearly 70 percent of economic activity.

Businesses have grown more cautious since spring, in part because customer demand has remained modest and exports have declined as the global economy has slowed.

Many companies worry that their overseas sales could dampen further if recession spreads throughout Europe and growth slows further in China, India and other developing countries. Businesses also fear the tax increases and government spending cuts that will kick in next year if Congress doesn't reach a budget deal.

Since the recovery began more than three years ago, the U.S. economy has grown at the slowest rate of any recovery in the post-World War II period. And economists think growth will remain sluggish at least through the first half of 2013.

Some analysts believe the economy will start to pick up in the second half of next year.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Imagine if..
    the Republicans had been willing to work the President to pass his jobs bill...we might growing at 3% - 4%...but alas they crave power more than actually addressing or solving problems. Remember that when you go to the polls.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. So as I read this the one question that continues to come to me to ask is. Didn't Indiana only have a couple of exchanges for people to opt into which were very high because we really didn't want to expect the plan. So was this study done during that time and if so then I can understand these numbers. I also understand that we have now opened up for more options for hoosiers to choose from. Please correct if I'm wrong and if I'm not why was this not part of the story so that true overview could be taken away and not just parts of it to continue this negative tone against the ACA. I look forward to the clarity.

  2. It's really very simple. All forms of transportation are subsidized. All of them. Your tax money already goes toward every single form of transportation in the state. It is not a bad thing to put tax money toward mass transit. The state spends over 1,000,000,000 (yes billion) on roadway expansions and maintenance every single year. If you want to cry foul over anything cry foul over the overbuilding of highways which only serve people who can afford their own automobile.

  3. So instead of subsidizing a project with a market-driven scope, you suggest we subsidize a project that is way out of line with anything that can be economically sustainable just so we can have a better-looking skyline?

  4. Downtowner, if Cummins isn't getting expedited permitting and tax breaks to "do what they do", then I'd be happy with letting the market decide. But that isn't the case, is it?

  5. Patty, this commuter line provides a way for workers (willing to work lower wages) to get from Marion county to Hamilton county. These people are running your restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and retail stores. I don't see a lot of residents of Carmel working these jobs.

ADVERTISEMENT