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Top Business Story: Recovery From Great Recession

After four quarters of decline, the economy returns to growth during the July-to-September period, signaling the end of the deepest and longest recession since the 1930s.

The rebound is sluggish and powered mainly by government stimulus to entice people to buy homes and cars. In the meantime, the unemployment rate tops 10 percent for only the second time since World War II.

A total of 15.4 million people are unemployed, and work remains scarce. The recession wipes out 7.2 million jobs. The Federal Reserve says it could take five or six years for the labor market to return to normal.

Americans' nest eggs are starting to heal. Yet experts say it will take years to recoup their losses. Net worth rose 5 percent last quarter but remains far below its pre-recession peak.

2. AUTO INDUSTRY COLLAPSE: U.S. auto sales plunge to a 26-year low, hastening General Motors' and Chrysler's collapse into bankruptcy and government control. Both companies emerge much smaller.

GM axes several major brands, including Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer, and thousands of dealerships. In March, CEO Rick Wagoner is ousted by the government. His replacement, 25-year GM veteran Fritz Henderson, is ousted in December. Chairman Ed Whitacre replaces Henderson even though the former AT&T CEO acknowledges knowing little about cars.

Chrysler emerges from bankruptcy under the control of Italy's Fiat. In November, Chrysler announces a five-year plan to spend $23 billion to overhaul or replace all of its Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram models by 2014. Much of the overhaul includes cost savings from combining purchasing and engineering with Fiat, and using Fiat's smaller, more fuel-efficient designs to replace aging Chrysler vehicles.

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