The U.S. economy advanced at a steady pace in the last months of 2013, growth that was fueled by robust consumer spending. The government's Commerce Department said Thursday the world's largest economy grew 3.2%t in the October-to-December period, following a 4.1% advance in the third quarter.
With the favorable six-month growth, economists in the U.S. say the country's economy could grow by more than 3% in 2014, a figure not reached since 2005.
For all of 2013, however, the US economy grew a tepid 1.9%, weaker than the 2.8% increase in 2012. Higher taxes and government spending cuts held down growth early last year, while a 16-day partial government shutdown in October trimmed the fourth quarter advance.
The government said consumers spent 3.3% more in 2013's fourth quarter, the strongest growth in three years. Personal spending is an important barometer in the U.S., accounting for about 70 percent of the country's economy.
President Barack Obama visited a manufacturing plant in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin and told workers that the U.S. economy is better positioned in the 21st century than any other country on earth.
But he said that even as corporate profits have grown and stock prices have soared, working class wages have stagnated and unemployment remains too high.
The middle class has been taking it on the chin even before the financial crisis — too many Americans working harder than ever just to get by, let alone get ahead, he said. And then there's too many Americans who still are out of work.
The U.S. unemployment rate is 6.7%, a five-year low, but more than 10 million workers are looking for jobs.
Obama has urged Congress to adopt his job-training proposals. But Republican lawmakers opposed to his economic policies say that he should instead support jobs legislation in the Senate that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has already approved.