Despite media bashing of the American economy since Bush took office, the numbers continue to show that the American economy is growing strongly.

The economy opened 2006 on a strong note, growing at a 5.6 percent pace, the fastest spurt in 2 1/2 years. But it lost steam during the spring and late summer. It grew at a 2.6 percent pace in the second quarter and then a weaker 2 percent pace in the third quarter. The fourth-quarter's rebound ended the year on a positive note.

For all of 2006, the gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 3.4 percent, an improvement from a 3.2 percent showing in 2005.

That's even more impressive considering the economy was hit by the housing slump. Investment in home building for all of last year was slashed by 4.2 percent, the most in 15 years.

GDP measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States and is the best barometer of the country's economic standing.

What's more, inflation is low, if not ideal.

Even with the slight improvement, underlying inflation is running higher than the Federal Reserve would like. For all of 2006, core inflation rose by 2.2 percent, up from 2.1 percent in 2005.

And unemployment is at all-time lows (even though official numbers for 2006 haven't been released yet). By every measure, the economy is booming.

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