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The GDP report measures the country’s total output of goods and services. It covers everything from bicycles to battleships, as well as services such as haircuts and doctor’s visits.

In August, many feared the economy was destined for another recession after the government said growth fell to less than 1 percent for the first six months of the year.

High gas prices, the growing debt crisis in Europe and wild fluctuations in the stock market also contributed to those fears, which have receded in recent weeks after reports showed improvements in hiring and consumer spending.

Economists project an annual growth rate of 2.5 percent to 3 percent for the October-December quarter and for all of next year — just enough to keep the unemployment rate from rising.

For the 14 million people who are out of work and want jobs, that’s discouraging news. And it’s an ominous sign for President Barack Obama, who will be facing voters next fall.

There have been some encouraging signs.

A measure of business investment plans rose in September for the second straight month and by the most in six months, according to a government report Wednesday on orders for longer-lasting manufactured goods.

And consumers stepped up their spending on retail goods in both July and September. The main reason for the September gain was more people bought new cars, a purchase people typically make when they are confident in their finances.

Economists warned that even their modest assessment of growth of around 2.7 percent for next year will fall short if the European debt crisis isn’t resolved. And the outlook could dim further if U.S. lawmakers allow a Social Security tax cut and extended unemployment benefits to expire at the end of this year.