There have been some signs that the economy is improving.

The unemployment rate fell in September to 7.8 percent. That's the lowest level since January 2009 â¿¿ President Barack Obama's first month in office. The rate fell because a government survey of households found a huge increase in the number of people who had jobs. Still, a jump in part-time employment accounted for most of the gain.

Retail sales grew in September at a healthy clip. And home sales and residential construction have shown steady improvement this year, helped by stable gains in home prices and the lowest mortgage rates in decades.

But the economy is not growing fast enough to generate much hiring. Growth slowed to a tepid annual rate of 1.3 percent in the April-June quarter, down from 2 percent in the previous quarter. Most economists see growth staying at or below 2 percent in the second half of the year. The Commerce Department will issue its first estimate of growth in the July-September quarter on Friday.

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