The Economy Which Way Is Up?

Housing and retail sales prod a sluggish recovery, but it will take more robust growth to bring back the jobs -- and help Bush in November

After the longest U.S. slump since the Great Depression, the first signs of recovery have begun to sprout like early spring blossoms. Spurred by a decline in interest rates, Americans have been snapping up houses and heading off to shopping malls in growing numbers. Tightfisted bankers have begun writing new loans, and some companies are seeing an encouraging increase in orders.

But hold the applause, please. A combination of high unemployment and low consumer confidence seems certain to make this America's weakest rebound since World War II. With the economy stuck in slow motion, a new round of layoffs could plunge...

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