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By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

The United States climbed to third in a leading ranking of the world’s most competitive economies, rising for the second straight year because of more positive views of the nation’s business climate, innovation capacity and strength of public and private institutions.

The U.S. trailed only Switzerland and Singapore in the annual survey by the World Economic Forum. Rounding out the top 10 were Finland, Germany, Japan, the Hong Kong region of China, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Sweden.

The results were released Wednesday by the forum, which hosts a high-profile gathering of corporate chieftains and politicians each winter in Davos, Switzerland.

Competitiveness is based on a dozen factors, including the strength of a nation’s public and private institutions, the state of its infrastructure, the quality of its education and its ability to foster innovation.

The latest ranking is the highest for the U.S. since it was second in the 2009-10 survey. Switzerland had taken the top spot from the U.S. in that survey and has headed the ranking every year since then.

The Great Recession and 2008 financial crisis took a toll on U.S. global competitiveness, according to the survey.

By 2012-13, the country had fallen to seventh amid a sluggish economy as well as bitter partisan debates over the debt limit and other fiscal issues.

But a strengthening economic recovery and less budget strife in Washington has helped the U.S. to improve its ranking among the 148 economies covered by the survey.

Last year, the U.S. rose to fifth. Improvements have continued, according to the World Economic Forum.

“U.S. companies are highly sophisticated and innovative, and they are supported by an excellent university system that collaborates admirably with the business sector” on research and development, the latest report said.

“Combined with flexible labor markets and the scale opportunities afforded by the sheer size of its domestic economy — the largest in the world by far — these qualities make the United States very competitive,” the report concluded.

Still, the U.S. has some areas of concern, such as a weak level of trust in politicians by the business community, concerns about favoritism by government officials and a general view that the government is wasteful, the report said.

AFP Photo/John Moore

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