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Slow, steady growth: 2nd-quarter gain 2%

– Economic growth sped up in the summer months, though not to any breakneck speed, according to a new report that reflects both the durability of the U.S. economic recovery and its sluggishness.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that the nation’s gross domestic product grew by 2 percent from July through September, up from the 1.3 percent rate posted in the second quarter and roughly in line with analysts’ forecasts.

The jump was driven by gains in consumer spending, housing investment and an uptick in government spending. But the rate was dragged down in part by falling exports and decreasing investment in commercial buildings.

“U.S. economic growth is slow, but not slowing,” as Conference Board economist Kathy Bostjancic summed it up.

Amid the heightened scrutiny of an election season, the latest numbers offer something for both sides to seize on. The U.S. economy has now grown for 13 straight quarters, more than three years consecutively, even as it has been buffeted by a range of threats from at home and abroad, which President Obama and his allies pointed out Friday.

“While we have more work to do, today’s GDP growth report, showing the 13th straight quarter of growth, is more evidence that our economy continues to come back from the worst recession since the Great Depression under President Obama’s leadership,” Obama campaign spokesman Adam Fletcher said. “Businesses have added 5.2 million jobs over the past 2 1/2 years, the unemployment rate is now at its lowest levels since January 2009, and the president has a concrete, detailed plan to continue moving America forward. …”

But the growth rate for most of those three years has not been enough to put the millions of jobless Americans back to work with any speed, as GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his allies emphasized.

“Today, we received the latest round of discouraging economic news: Last quarter, our economy grew at only 2 percent, less than half the 4.3 percent rate the White House projected after passing the stimulus bill,” Romney said. “Slow economic growth means slow job growth and declining take-home pay. This is what four years of President Obama’s policies have produced.”