Top 10 Political Stories for 2011: Page 6 of 11

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THE ECONOMY

Every political battle of the year was fought against the backdrop of the economy — and, for the most part, that backdrop was dark and foreboding. Unemployment remained at historically high levels, wages remained stagnant, and the housing market remained depressed.

As if all that were not enough, the debt crisis in Europe came into increasingly sharp focus toward the end of the year, raising the possibility that the anemic U.S. recovery could yet be undone by events on the other side of the Atlantic.

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But there were some green shoots of recovery too. The jobs report for November showed the official unemployment rate declining to 8.6 percent from 9 percent a month earlier — though this was partly a consequence of around 300,000 people leaving the labor force.

Unemployment may yet come down significantly in advance of November’s election. But such hopes have been raised and dashed before, as anyone who recalls the Obama administration’s brief effort to present the summer of 2010 as “recovery summer.”

Here are The Hill’s choices for the 10 most important political stories of the year:

Bin Laden | Giffords | Dissent
Message? | Economy | GOP's reign
Reid & McConnell | Debt ceiling | The wire | GOP candidates

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