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October 28, 2010

US Economy Grows Two Percent in Third Quarter

by Mil Arcega

The US economy is growing. That's the good news.  The bad news is that economic growth remains sluggish.  The US Commerce Department says GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the broadest measure of the US economy, grew 2 percent, at an annual rate, between July and September - a slight increase from the previous quarter.

The White House says the government report is more evidence that the economy has weathered the worst downturn since the 1930's.  But the numbers are of little help for Democrats who face steep losses in next week's mid-term elections.

Consumers helped boost growth in the third quarter - spending at the fastest rate since the end of 2006 before the recession hit.  As a result, the US economy grew slightly faster than the previous quarter - but not enough to fuel significant job growth.

Speaking at a steel factory in Maryland, President Barack Obama said his policies are moving the economy in the right direction. "But as we continue to dig out from the worst recession in 80 years our mission is to accelerate that recovery and encourage more rapid growth so business like this one can continue to prosper and get millions of Americans who are still looking for jobs back to work," he said.

Nearly 15 million Americans are unemployed.  And with frustration growing among voters, polls show that Republicans are likely to take control of the House of Representatives, severely reducing the president's ability to move forward with a middle class agenda.  

But economist Dan Greenhaus at trading firm Miller Tabak, says a Republican-led Congress would be good for the economy. "Furthermore, to the extent that a Republican takeover of the House leads to some finality on the tax cut debate, and hopefully an extension of the Bush tax cuts, that in turn will in theory help lead to further economic expansion and a reduction of the unemployment rate," he said.

Of course, not everyone agrees.  Democrats say renewing the Bush tax cuts next year to the wealthiest Americans would add $700 billion to the deficit.  

Professor Joe Foudy at New York University's School of Business says demand drives job growth - not lower taxes. "I mean will businesses really hire someone because they can save money on their taxes for the next 12 months?"

Regardless of how Democrats fare in Tuesday's elections, Mr. Obama urged both parties to work together for the good of the country. "Political season's going to be over soon and when it does all of us are going to have a responsibility, Democrats and Republicans, to work together wherever we can to promote jobs and growth," he said.

The Commerce Department expects the US economy will grow at an annual rate of 2.6 percent this year.  

Economists say it would have to expand by 5 percent to reduce the nation's nearly double digit unemployment rate by one percent.