The U.S. recovery is frustrating — but it’s the envy of the advanced world

By Chico Harlan

U.S.A.! (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

U.S.A.! (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

In the United States, the story of the economy is a good news, bad news affair. Jobs are coming back, but millions are reluctantly accepting part-time work. Investors are accumulating wealth, but income levels are hardly growing.

But globally, the trajectory of America’s economy is spurring a different reaction: envy. On the heels of a steady six-month jobs expansion, the United States has reemerged as the star of — and perhaps the locomotive for — an otherwise slumping global economy.

In the latest reminder of how America is outpacing much of the developed world, the government said Thursday that the nation’s gross domestic product — the size of its economy — grew at an annualized rate of 3.5 percent between July and September. That figure came amid growing fears that Europe is sliding into its third recession since 2008. And while the United Kingdom is faring well, too, economists predict that by 2015 the United States will be the rich world’s standout economy.

“GDP growth of 3.5 percent?” said Jay Bryson, a global economist at Wells Fargo. “If you said that to a European right now, they’d start to cry tears of joy.”


The notion of the United States as a global engine is a reminder of what may now seem like an ancient era. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, emerging economies like Brazil and China took the lead role, but growth in those countries slowed as well.

Economists caution that the U.S. economy, this time around, remains fragile. And it’s unclear if the United States can lift up other struggling economies — or will be pulled down by them. The United States accounts for about 16 percent of global economic output, compared with …read more