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Published: Thursday, 6/10/2010

Survey: Economic growth is modest, but spreading

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON - For the first time since the beginning of the recession, economic growth - modest and fragile, but growth nonetheless - has spread to every corner of the country.

A survey released yesterday found economic activity improving across all 12 regions of the nation tracked by the Federal Reserve. It was the first clean sweep in the report since 2007.

Metal producers in Chicago and St. Louis cranked out more steel. Makers of drugs and medical equipment in the Northeast did better business. And sales of summer clothes were strong in fashion-conscious New York.

Still, the pace of growth in most parts of the country was described as modest. That's a sign that companies probably won't start hiring again anytime soon in great enough numbers to bring down the unemployment rate.

"It's kind of like having more people sign up to run in the Boston Marathon but no one is running very fast," said Brian Bethune, economist at IHS Global Insight.

"You have more people in the race, but they are all running slowly," he said.

Fed chief Ben Bernanke sounded a similar note in testimony yesterday before Congress, telling lawmakers that the economy probably will plod ahead in the coming months, producing limited growth.

Mr. Bernanke said the debt crisis in Europe, which has rattled the U.S. stock market since April, was unlikely to seriously harm the American recovery as long as Wall Street stabilizes.

He also predicted only a slow reduction in the unemployment rate, which stands at 9.7 percent, slightly lower than its quarter-century high.



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