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The economy has performed exceptionally well for the past several years combining rapid growth and very low unemployment with declining inflation Not only has the expansion achieved record length but it has done so with far stronger growth than expected stated Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in his remarks to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition annual conference in Washington Business Week The McGraw-Hill Companies Economic Outlook March 62000 Figures show that since 1996 the growth of GDP has averaged more than 4 percent compared with an average of about 3 percent since 1973 Because of those four years of rapid growth the unemployment rate has fallen to 41 percent its lowest level since January 1970 Consumer Price Index CPI inflation excluding food and energy prices had been vacillating at about 3 percent per year earlier in the decade but was roughly 2 percent over the past year Bank of America Economic in Brief November 1 1999 Much of the auspicious recent economic developments can be attributed to a surge in productivity growth Alan Greenspan noted in his statement that output per hour in the non-financial corporate sector had increased since 1995 at nearly double the average pace of the preceding 25 years First Union Monthly Economic Outlook March 7 2000 This rapid productivity growth allowed the economy to grow at a faster pace without raising the rate of inflation However the growth of consumer demand is exceeding the increase of productivityboosting employment tightening labor markets and raising concerns that recent growth rates may not be sustainable without sparking a rise in inflation After spending the past several years extolling the virtues of improved productivity in allowing higher growth with less inflation the Federal Reserve Chairman seemed to turn the tables in his Humphrey Hawkins testimony stating that the spurt in productivity has produced expectation of higher profit growth which in turn have resulted in higher equity valuations That surge in equity prices
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