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Economic Growth: Slumping
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
Last updated December 08 2008: 12:48 PM ET
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