The U.S. economy picked up speed at the end of 2011, as consumers increased their spending.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic health, grew at a 2.8% annual rate in the last three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Friday. That's up from a 1.8% growth rate in the prior quarter and the strongest reading since the second quarter of 2010.
Still, economists had expected higher growth in the fourth quarter.
Growth of at least 3% is considered enough to prompt hiring by employers. During the quarter, the unemployment rate fell to 8.5% in December from 9% in September.
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