WASHINGTON | Five years after a global financial crisis erupted, the world's biggest economies still need to be propped up.
They're growing and hiring a little faster and creating more jobs -- but only with extraordinary aid from central banks or government spending. And economists say major countries may need help for years more.
From the United States to Europe to Japan, central banks are pumping cash into economies and keeping loan rates near record lows. Even fast-growing China has rebounded from an uncharacteristic slump with the help of government money that's poured into projects and made loans easily available from state-owned banks.
For now, thanks in part to the intervention, the world economy is improving. The International Monetary Fund expects global growth to rise to 3.6 percent in 2014 from 2.9 percent this year.
The improvement "does not mean that a sustainable recovery is on firm footing," Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, warned last month. He said major economies will need stimulus from "extraordinary monetary policies" to sustain momentum into 2014. Many economists think stimulus will be needed even longer.
Yet these policies carry their own risks. Critics, including some of the Fed's own policymakers, note the cash the central banks are pumping into the global financial system flows into stocks, bonds and commodities like oil. Their prices can escalate to unsustainable levels and raise the risks of a market crash.
Other analysts warn the easy-money policies could cause runaway inflation in the future.