FILE - A construction worker builds a commercial complex in Springfield, Illinois.
FILE - A construction worker builds a commercial complex in Springfield, Illinois.

The U. S. economy expanded at a solid 3.5 percent annual rate in July, August and September.

Thursday's report from the Commerce Department says third quarter growth was helped by exports and spending by consumers and government.

A separate report showed the number of Americans applying for unemployment assistance rose slightly last week, but experts say the long-term trend shows a strengthening job market.

The improving job market is one reason that the U.S. central bank ended a major effort to bolster the economy on Wednesday. The Fed says the economy no longer needs so much help.  

Fed experts say the economy still needs ultra-low interest rates, though, to continue its recovery. Many economists say the key interest rate probably will remain at its current low rate until the middle of next year.