Economy grew just 1.9 percent in fourth quarter

Economy grew just 1.9 percent in fourth quarter
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The U.S. economy’s growth slowed to 1.9 percent in the last quarter of 2016, President Obama's final three months in power.

New data from the Commerce Department released Friday shows that for all of 2016, the U.S. economy grew just 1.6 percent, the slowest rate of growth in five years.

And the fourth-quarter numbers came in below the expectations of many economists. A Bloomberg survey showed they believed the report would show economic growth of 2.2 percent.

The slowdown to end the year came after the third quarter posted a surprisingly strong 3.5 percent growth.

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The new numbers further flesh out a picture of the U.S. economy that suggests that it is steadily growing, if not particularly rapidly.

They also come as President Trump is vowing to at least double that rate of growth, as Republicans look to cut regulations and taxes in a bid to boost the private sector.

However, there are fundamental challenges that would complicate that effort.

The U.S. population is aging as Baby Boomers begin to retire from the workforce, and experts say it is a challenge for the U.S. to significantly boost its productivity from current levels.

But there are also reasons for optimism. The stock market is up roughly 9 percent since Trump’s surprising electoral victory as businesses gear up to take advantage of Republican policies.

And consumer spending, which makes up the largest amount of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), was up 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter, outpacing overall growth.

Friday’s report marked the first of three fourth-quarter GDP estimates from the Commerce Department.