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Fears Rise That Recovery May Falter in the Spring

New York Times (04/20/12) Annie Lowrey

Increasing layoffs, slowing manufacturing activity, and concerns about Europe are sparking fears that the economic recovery is headed for a springtime stall for the third year in a row. Forecasters have said that the trends point to a moderation of economic growth in the U.S., but they still expect the recovery to continue this year. The slowdown in part reflects an unusually warm winter, which pulled forward economic activity, making January and February seem artificially good and perhaps making recent weeks look worse than they truly were.

There are signs that the sharp decline in the unemployment rate—which fell to 8.2% in March from 8.9% in October—might be over, with economic growth not robust enough for employers to continue adding jobs so rapidly. In March, employers added just 120,000 new jobs, the fewest since November. The recent rise in new jobless claims has raised worries that the April report will also be disappointing, although some forecasters say the jobless-claims statistics have been affected by the timing of Easter. Economists are divided over the import of the recent slowdown, with many saying it is more likely to seem like a blip than a major change.