Gross domestic product - or GDP - is the broadest measure of the nation's economic growth and the government takes its pulse three times each quarter.
In the third quarter, GDP declined at an annual rate of 0.5%, according to the second reading for that period.
The economy took a huge hit from a pullback in consumer spending, which was down 3.7%, the biggest drop in 28 years. Spending by individuals, rather than businesses or the government, accounts for about 70% of the nation's economic activity.
Early readings on spending in October suggest that spending and the economy as a whole will be even weaker in the fourth quarter, hit by tight credit, rising job losses and low levels of consumer confidence.NEXT: Jobs: Labor pains