Economy grows at fastest pace since 2003

The U.S. economy grew 5.7 percent during the fourth quarter of 2009, which is the fastest pace since the third quarter of 2003, according to USA Today. The growth from October 2009 through December 2009 marked the second consecutive quarter of growth for the economy.

However, the growth at the end of 2009 is attributed largely to companies refilling depleted stockpiles, which is a temporary trend that analysts believe will end soon. And the U.S. economy declined 2.4 percent during 2009, which is the largest drop since 1946.

Wages and benefits increased 0.5 percent during the fourth quarter of 2009; for the entire year, wages and benefits were up 1.5 percent, which is the weakest showing on records that go back to 1982. The 0.5 percent increase for total compensation in the fourth quarter was slightly higher than the 0.4 percent economists expected.

Some see the fourth-quarter growth as evidence that the recession has ended as the housing market is slowly recovering, industrial production is up and layoffs have slowed. However, some analysts believe the temporary factors that helped boost the economy—such as the economic stimulus and inventory restocking—will fade, and growth could slow or even stop.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based National Bureau of Economic Research determines the beginning and end of recessions and has not commented on whether the current recession has ended.

Many economists predict growth will slow to 2.5 percent in the current quarter and high unemployment will lead to dampened consumer spending.

Date : 2/2/2010