The Ups and Downs of Our GDP

By ColumnsFOXBusiness

American consumers helped boost economic growth last year - but it's not all roses and rainbows for the coming months.The economy - or the gross domestic product - grew at an annual rate of 3.1% percent last quarter - boosted by inventory building and business investment.That was an upward revision from last month's 2.8% percent estimate. The expansion was the best since the start of last year.It was also driven by 4% growth in consumer spending - the strongest gains in four years. And that's big because what you and I spend accounts for 70% of economic activity. So we're moving in the right direction.Last year the economy expanded just 2.9%. That is way better than the 2.6% drop in output in 2009 - the worst performance in 60 years.Now for the not-so-good news: economists say growth needs to average around 5% for a year just to lower the current 8.9% unemployment rate by 1%.And the bad news doesn't stop there. Rising oil prices and others costs, including food, will very likely constrain consumer discretionary spending over the next few months.The price of oil has already gone up more than 15% this year alone! It's prompting many economists to slash their forecasts for this quarter's GDP and it could impact future quarters as well. And Americans can't afford any more bad news - a new Federal Reserve study shows more than two thirds of us saw our net worth decline during the recession.Median wealth fell to $96,000 from $125, 000 in 2007.And that means more families are saving... and if the price of oil and other commodities forces them to save more - then so long recovery.Listen, I'm happy big business is back on top - with hordes of cash and great earnings.But if they're not hiring, the economy isn't getting better.

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