By CHRISTOPHER RUGABER
AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The economy shrank in the first half of this year, underscoring fears of a broad-based slowdown that could lead to a recession. At the same time, the number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell to a five-month low. Inflation, meantime, remains near its highest level in four decades, though gas costs and other prices have eased in recent weeks. Six months of economic contraction is a long-held informal definition of a recession. Yet nothing is simple in a post-pandemic economy in which growth is negative but the job market strong. The wide range of data is key in helping define when a recession hits.

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