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Feds Dial Back Summer’s Growth

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy grew at a sluggish annual rate of 1.8 percent from July through September, down from earlier estimates, the government said Thursday.

The new data threw some cold water on hopes that the economic recovery had picked up significant steam in the second half of the year. The initial estimate of third-quarter growth, released in October, was 2.5 percent, but the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis has revised it down twice since then.

Thursday’s figure was the final one, and came in somewhat below the 2 percent level that most economists had expected. Fourth-quarter data will be released early next year.

The third quarter still showed faster growth than the 1.3 percent rate for the second quarter, and has allayed fears that the nation was headed toward another recession. Increased consumer spending helped fuel the improvement in the third quarter, but budget cutting by state and local governments remained a drag on growth, the Commerce Department said.

The new data was offset somewhat Thursday by continued improvement in the employment picture. New jobless claims declined again last week, falling to 364,000, the lowest level since April 2008, the Labor Department said.

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