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US Economy Likely Grew Slowly Last Quarter

MARTIN CRUTSINGER

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The government's snapshot Friday of the U.S. economy's growth will be its last before Americans choose a president in 11 days.

It probably won't sway many undecided voters.

The first of three estimates of growth for the July-September quarter will likely sketch a picture that's been familiar all year: The economy is growing at a tepid rate, slowed by high unemployment, corporate anxiety over an unresolved budget crisis and a global economic slowdown.

Economists' consensus forecast is that the government will estimate that the economy grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent last quarter. That would exceed the 1.3 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter. But it would be too slight to signal robust job creation, which is what the economy needs most.

And it would give Mitt Romney's team evidence to argue that the economy is growing at an unacceptably subpar pace.

"We are stuck in this half-speed growth mode," said David Wyss, an economics professor at Brown University.

The government's report covers gross domestic product. GDP measures the nation's total output of goods and services â¿¿ from restaurant meals and haircuts to airplanes, appliances and highways.

Economists think GDP growth in the final three months of 2012 could resemble the preceding three quarters, with the economy expanding at an annual rate of around 1.8 percent. If that estimate proves accurate, growth for the entire year would equal 1.7 percent, even slower than the 1.8 percent growth for 2011.

Since the recovery from the Great Recession began in June 2009, the U.S. economy has grown at the slowest rate of any recovery in the post-World War II period. And economists think growth will remain sluggish at least through the first half of 2013. Some analysts believe the economy will start to pick up in the second half of next year.

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