WASHINGTON -The economy shrank even faster than thought at the end of last year, and job losses are continuing at a stunning pace, according to government data released Thursday, reminders of the severity of the downturn even as the economy shows hints of stabilizing.
There have been some optimistic signs for the economy in recent weeks, particularly a jump in orders for durable goods reported Wednesday. But Thursday's data provided evidence that even if those signs of improvement continue, the outlook for American workers is likely to remain bad for months to come.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average hit its highest level in six weeks because of better-than-expected earnings from consumer brands such as Best Buy, ConAgra Foods Inc. and Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy, fell at a 6.3 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday, instead of the 6.2 percent decline earlier estimated. There were some glimmers of hope behind the headline number; the report said business inventories fell even more than originally thought. That means that if demand for goods rises, factories will have to get cranking again.