FedEx employees sorted through mounds of packages in December at one of the company's facilities in Miami. Consumer spending helped fuel the economy in the third quarter. Gross domestic product grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate (a figure that adjusts for holiday spending to show the "real" growth). Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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The lines were busy last September at an unemployment insurance phone bank operated by the California Employment Development Department in Sacramento. Rich Pedroncelli/AP hide caption

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Looking for work in Florida. At a November career fair in West Palm Beach, this man had a job application in hand. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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At a Ford plant in Michigan, workers load a battery into a Ford C-MAX plug-in hybrid vehicle. The economy picked up speed in the third quarter. Economists caution, though, that it may slow in coming quarters. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images hide caption

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