Officially, the Great Recession is over, at least for the United States. That nation’s economy recorded 3.5 percent annual growth for the third quarter of 2009. Japan is also showing signs of an uptick in its economic fortunes. It is too early to celebrate, however. The recoveries will prove fleeting if consumers do not regain confidence and provide a continuing boost to their economies. Companies have not yet resumed hiring, and CIT Group Inc.’s bankruptcy filing may cause a financing crunch for many small businesses.

The U.S. economy had been shrinking for a year. In the first quarter of 2009, the economy contracted 6.4 percent, a showing even worse than the 5.4 percent decline recorded in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the sharpest fall since 1982. The slowing of the U.S. economic engine triggered a global downturn that raised fears of another Great Depression.

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