NEW YORK (NEWSnet/AP) — As some of the world’s biggest economies stumble into recession, the United States keeps chugging forward.

Both Japan and United Kingdom said Thursday their economies weakened during the final three months of 2023. For each, it would be the second straight quarter that has occurred, fitting one definition for a recession.

Yet in the United States, the economy stayed steady in Q4 ’23, a sixth straight quarter of growth. It surpassed many predictions that a recession seemed inevitable because of high interest rates.

Give much of the credit to U.S. households, who have continued to spend at a solid rate despite many challenges. Their spending comprises a majority of the U.S. economy. Government stimulus helped households weather the initial stages of the pandemic and a jump in inflation, and pay raises are helping them make gains against high cost of goods and services.

On Thursday, a report showed that fewer U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits last week.

Economists say risk of a recession can’t be eliminated. Inflation could accelerate. Concerns about heavy borrowing by the U.S. government could upset financial markets, ultimately making loans to buy cars and other things more expensive. Growing losses tied to commercial real estate could mean big pain for the financial system.

For now, the outlook continues to appear better for the United States than many other major economies. The mood on Wall Street is so positive that the main measure of the U.S. stock market, the S&P 500 index, topped the 5,000 level last week for the first time.

When it upgraded its forecast for global growth in 2024 a couple weeks ago, International Monetary Fund cited greater-than-expected resilience in the U.S. economy as a major reason.

Several characteristics of the U.S. economy have sheltered it from a recessionary storm, analysts say. The U.S. government provided about $5 trillion in pandemic aid in 2020-2021, far more than overseas counterparts, which left most households in much better financial shape and supported consumer spending well into 2023.

Britain's counterparts carry mortgages that have to be renewed every two to five years. They’ve struggled with rising mortgage rates as Bank of England has lifted borrowing cost to combat inflation.

Another benefit for the United States is it experienced a surge in immigration in recent years, making it easier for businesses to fill jobs, potentially and expand operations, and has led to more people earning wages, then spending those earnings.

Japan is aging rapidly and has seen its population shrink for several years, as it is less open to foreign labor. A declining population can act as a drag on economic growth.

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