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The U.S. economy posted stunning growth in the third quarter — but it may not last

People shop in a Manhattan store in New York City on July 27, 2023. The economy grew 4.9% in the July-September, a stunning pace of growth that was largely powered by strong spending from consumers.
Spencer Platt
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Getty Images
People shop in a Manhattan store in New York City on July 27, 2023. The economy grew 4.9% in the July-September, a stunning pace of growth that was largely powered by strong spending from consumers.

The economy roared over the late summer and early fall as Americans went on a strong spending binge.

Data on Thursday showed gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual pace of 4.9% in July, August and September. That's more than twice as fast as the previous quarter.

It was the highest quarter of growth rate since the last three months of 2021.

The strong performance by the economy was particularly striking at a time when interest rates have climbed to their highest level in more than two decades.

Americans helped to power the growth as they continued to open their wallets, buying cars, restaurant meals — and Taylor Swift concert tickets.

An uptick in exports and increased government spending also helped power economic growth.

But strong growth may not last

Forecasters warn the economy is unlikely to sustain this blistering pace in the final months of the year. Growth is expected to moderate as the impact of higher interest rates continue to be felt.

Higher rates have already slowed the housing market and could put the brakes on other consumer purchases.

The question is how much the economy will slow. Earlier this year, some forecasters had worried that higher borrowing costs would tip the economy into recession.

Though recession fears have waned since then, they are still not off the table given the number of challenges facing the economy, including a turbulent global environment.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.