And now for something completely different: a little good economic news

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In contrast to yesterday’s blog on the continued dearth of jobs in our economy, the Bureau of Economic Analysis today said that it expects Q4 2009 real gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 5.7%, the biggest increase since Q3 2003.

That improvement is largely due to private companies rebuilding their inventories, contributing nearly 3.4% to that GDP change, reports NPR’s Planet Money. While that’s a good sign, Q4 included holiday shopping, which likely accounts for the inventory boosts. Whether the economy will continue to improve remains to be seen.

Last year at this time, the economy was at its lowest point from a percentage-change perspective, dropping a whopping 6.4% after consecutive drops of 5.4% and 2.7% in the two prior quarters. And that big drop included the 2008 holiday season.

Meanwhile, the Senate confirmed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (pictured left) 70-30 to a second four-year term. It’s not the near-unanimous vote that a Fed Chairman typically receives, but these are not typical times. Whether Bernanke would be reconfirmed looked more tenuous earlier in the process, but financial markets seemed to be reacting poorly to the idea that American economic leadership would be unstable, encouraging some Senators to rethink their opposition, reports the Wall Street Journal.

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