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THE WINNERS AND THE LOSERS

* WINNER: The U.S. economy. It has become the most competitive in the world, displacing the Japanese economy for the first time since 1985. That's the word this week from the 14th annual global survey by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. What's more, according to a different survey by the U.S. Labor Department, the American economy is creating relatively high-paying jobs at a rapid clip rather than just providing work for more hamburger flippers.

LOSERS: American workers and consumers. Despite the upsurge in the economy, new polls show most Americans don't think it's getting better. That's one reason why President Clinton's ratings with the public continue to slide.LOSER: USAir. With this week's crash near Pittsburgh, it has had the worst run of accidents in U.S. commercial aviation history, with five crashes killing 219 people since 1989. No other major U.S. airline has had an accident since 1991. And since 1989, there have been only two accidents involving major U.S. airlines that did not involve USAir. The firm has lost $2.5 billion in the past five years and is at a critical juncture in its efforts to turn around financially.

LOSERS: Denver's new International Airport - and the airlines operating there. It will cost those airlines an average of $18.15 per passenger to operate at the Denver facility, making it the most expensive in the country. That cost figure is more than three and a half times the airlines' average cost at Denver's old Stapleton Airport.

LOSERS: Weekend drivers - because that's the most dangerous time on the highways, even when there's no holiday. New figures show the deadliest day to drive is Saturday, with 19 percent of motor vehicle deaths. Friday and Sunday follow with 16 percent. Monday is the lowest, with 12 percent. The greatest percentage of accidents take place between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. (16 percent), followed by the hours from 9 p.m. to midnight (15 percent) and midnight to 3 a.m. (14 percent).

One possibly bright note: highway fatalities account for less than two percent of all deaths.