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Economy Grows at Record Pace in Third Quarter, Remains Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

A customer and employee at a Walmart store in North Brunswick, N.J., July 20, 2020. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

The economy grew at a record pace during the third quarter as it rebounds from the coronavirus pandemic, although it has not fully recovered to its pre-pandemic heights.

GDP increased by an annualized rate of 33.1 percent during the third quarter, a stark contrast to the second quarter’s annualized rate of 31.4 percent contraction, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The figure is a measure of how much the economy would have grown if the third quarter rate had endured for a whole year.

The third quarter growth rate was slightly below economists’ predictions of 32 percent growth. However, the economy would have to have grown an additional 13 percent to return to its level before the pandemic hit.

The economic contraction of earlier this year was spurred by lockdown orders and stay at home measures, while the third quarter’s rebound came as businesses opened again across the country, boosted by the $2.2 trillion in coronavirus stimulus funds the CARES Act provided.

The recovery is expected to slow down in the fourth quarter as stimulus funding expires, and the economy is expected to end the year about 3.6 percent smaller than it was when the fourth quarter of last year ended.

Unemployment remains high, but initial jobless claims decreased by 40,000 to 751,000 during the week ending Saturday, the lowest level since shutdowns caused massive layoffs in March, the Labor Department said Thursday.

About half of the 22 million jobs that disappeared in March and April as businesses shuttered have been recovered as of September.

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