- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2005


The economy closed out 2004 with decent momentum and appears to have picked up some speed since then, raising hopes of a better climate for jobs but also fears of worsening inflation.

The broadest barometer of economic health, the gross domestic product, advanced at an annual rate of 3.8 percent over the final three months of last year, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.

The rate, the same as the one estimated a month ago, improved upon the initial reading of 3.1 percent pace for the fourth quarter. GDP measures the value of all goods and services produced in the United States.

“The economy at the moment has a pretty good tail wind,” said Anthony Chan, senior economist at JP Morgan Asset Management.

Economists said the economic performance from October through December was admirable, even when compared with the 4 percent growth rate in the third quarter. That was a pace some analysts had hoped would continue over the last three months of 2004.

Looking at the January-to-March period, the economy is expected to grow at a rate of about 4 percent, some analysts project. Economic growth probably will slow over the next three months, but still be healthy, they said.

If that outlook prevails, it should help generate respectable job gains, analysts said. “We are going to produce better growth on the job front,” predicted Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics.

The overall economy has performed better than the jobs market, where progress has proved uneven. Federal Reserve policy-makers have said “labor market conditions continue to improve gradually.”

The economy added a net 262,000 jobs in February, the most since October. With the government releasing the March employment report tomorrow, analysts are forecasting a gain of about 220,000 jobs for the month.

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