While growth this summer has improved, economists are still wary about the final three months of this year. Many are worried that companies will hold back on hiring and investment because of the "fiscal cliff," the package of tax increases and spending cuts slated to take effect early next year. Unless Congress and the White House agree to delay or replace the cliff, it could push the economy into recession in the first half of next year.
Recent reports, however, have shown signs of improvement. Hiring has picked up, which has boosted consumer confidence. Employers added 171,000 jobs in October and job gains in August and September were higher than first estimated. The unemployment rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent as more of those out of work began searching for jobs.
A survey by the University of Michigan last week found that consumer sentiment improved for the fourth straight month to its highest level in five years.