Robust defense spending in the April-June quarter was the main buttress shoring-up the US recovery, which increased during the quarter by 2.4%, according to the US Commerce Department.

By some measures, the leap in defense dollars was the largest in a single quarter since the 1951 Korean war, impacting on the quarter’s growth by twice the rate of increase in consumer spending. Cars, trucks and appliances also prospered while the rate of increase took many analysts by surprise.

But all is not sweetness and light in America’s inconstant economy. The Labor Department reported Thursday that the jobless rate rose to a nine-year high of 6.4 percent in June.

On the other hand, the number of people filing initial claims for unemployment benefit edged down again last week – hailed by optimists (and the Bush administration) as a signal that the US labor market is beginning to improve.

Said commerce secretary Donald L Evans: “Today's announcement . . . indicates that our economy is clearly moving in the right direction. Then the commercial: “The president’s tax cut is beginning to work its way into the economy, and the stock market continues to reflect the confidence that investors have in the short-term economic outlook.”

The government’s July employment figures will be released today (Friday).

Data sourced from: The Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff