Consumer spending rose in 2012, but not by as much as the year before. In December, these shoppers were out and about in Glendale, Calif. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Looking for work: In Birmingham, Ala., last summer, Jessica McQueen (left) and Ashley Abramson were among those filling out applications at a jobs fair. Joe Songer /Birmingham News /Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Songer /Birmingham News /Landov

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

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The cost of a gallon of gas kept rising last year, but not at the torrid pace of 2010 and 2011. That helped keep inflation in check. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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The scene at a job fair in San Mateo, Calif., earlier this year. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Justin Sullivan/Getty Images