Some good news to start the week! According to reports, American consumers loosened their purse strings during the fourth quarter of 2010, giving the economy a sizable boost. Good News? Certainly. However, the jump is still lower than economists were predicting.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic activity, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% in the last three months of the year, a significant increase from a 2.6% rise in the previous quarter, the government said Friday.
But that's still weaker than expectations. A group of 27 economists surveyed by CNNMoney had predicted GDP growth of 3.5%.
"The U.S. economy is finally, after three years, producing as much as it did before the Great Recession hit. But this is by no means 'mission accomplished,'" Economic Policy Institute economist Josh Bivens said in a research note.
"The 3.2% growth registered in the last quarter of 2010 would, if sustained over the next year, provide almost no downward push to the unemployment rate," he said.
The faster pace came mainly on the backs of American consumers, who headed back to the shopping malls during the holiday season. Personal consumption, a measure of consumer spending, jumped by 4.4% in the fourth quarter -- the strongest increase in that reading in at least four years.