WASHINGTON - The latest snapshot of economic growth shows the U.S. recovery remains tepid.
Growth in the July-September quarter climbed slightly but was still too weak to stir significantly more hiring. The pace of expansion rose to a 2 percent annual rate from 1.3 percent in the April-June quarter, led by more consumer and government spending.
Voters who are still undecided about the presidential election aren't likely to be swayed by Friday's mixed report from the Commerce Department.
In this Aug. 13, file photo, Mercedes SUV bodies are seen during a tour of the SKD packaging facility at BLG Logistics, Inc. in Vance, Ala. The U.S. economy grew at a slightly faster 2 percent annual rate from July through September, buoyed by more spending by consumers and the federal government, the Commerce Department said Friday. Growth accelerated from the 1.3 percent rate in the April-June quarter.
"For the average American, I don't think changes in quarterly GDP" make a big difference in their perception of the economy, said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. "It's certainly good for the president that the number is not bad because that would resonate."
With 11 days until the election, the economy is being kept afloat by a revitalized consumer and the early stages of a housing recovery. But more than three years after the Great Recession ended, the nation continues to struggle because businesses are reluctant to invest, and slower global growth has cut demand for American exports.
Republican nominee Mitt Romney is telling voters that President Barack Obama's policies have kept the economy from accelerating and have even slowed growth in the past two years. The 1.7 percent annual growth rate for the first nine months of 2012 remains slightly behind last year's 1.8 percent growth. And both are below 2010's growth of 2.4 percent.
The economy contracted at a 5.3 percent annual rate in the first three months of 2009, just as Obama took office during the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Obama says his policies stabilized the economy later that year and argues that the stimulus package and auto bailout helped it grow in 2010.
The White House points to an economy that's expanded for 13 straight quarters. Yet this year's third-quarter growth is slightly below the 2.2 percent average pace since the recession ended in June 2009.