AP: Economists Hopeful for 2012 Economic Prospects

The economy is growing at a faster rate than economists had originally expecte

The economy is growing at a faster rate than economists had originally expected, according to a new poll by The Associated Press. Fueled by booms in auto sales, job creation, industrial output, consumer confidence, manufacturing and even some slight gains in the housing market, the economy looks poised for a strong rebound in 2012.

Specifically, the panel of economists told the AP that they expect the economy to grow by 2.5 percent this year, up from previous projection of 2.4 percent. Throughout 2011, the economy expanded by 1.7 percent, but the recent upward revision of fourth quarter growth to 3 percent may have broadened analysts' hopes.

Respondents also expect the unemployment rate to continue to fall. Currently at 8.3 percent, economists project the figure will drop to around 8 percent in time for the November presidential election. This may continue to boost President Barack Obama's approval ratings.

A joint AP-GfK poll conducted last month found 48 percent of Americans approve of how the president is handling the economy, up from 39 percent in December.

Concerns about Europe's debt crisis persist, but they have diminished substantially in recent weeks.

"Every day … it becomes a little less likely that it will happen," Marty Regalia, chief economist at the U.S Chamber of Commerce, told the AP.