The U.S. economy grew faster in the third quarter of 2012 than the second quarter based on a new report released Friday.
This economic snapshot will be the last government report before the election.
According to the Commerce Department, the economy expanded at a 2 percent rate from July-September, an improvement over the 1.3 percent rate from April-June. This was better than expected; most economists were forecasting a smaller growth growth rate for the third quarter.
The improvement is credited to an increase in both consumer and government spending. Consumer spending in particular drives nearly 70 percent of economic activity.
The news provides spin for both candidates; for President Obama, when coupled with September's unemployment numbers, the lowest since he took office, the news gives credence to his insistence the economy really is improving under his stewardship. With two back-to-back relatively positive economic reports the last things voters are hearing about the economy prior to the election, just enough voters might be feeling more optimistic about the state of economy on Election Day to carry Obama through to a win.
For Mitt Romney, whose election chances largely ride on the American public believing Obama has failed on the economy, he can point at the slight decrease in the growth rate in 2012 versus 2011: 2011 had a 1.8 percent growth rate, while the first three quarters of 2012 average at a 1.74 percent rate. He can also make the argument that though there are signs of improvement, the economy is not growing fast enough, a message that could resonate with voters impatient with the current pace of growth and not feeling the improvement in their own lives.
Most economists believe that regardless of who is elected, economic growth will continue to be sluggish until at least the second half of next year, when some predict it may start growing faster.