WASHINGTON – Expect a dreary report today when the government issues its first estimate of how fast the U.S. economy grew in the January-March quarter.
Bitter cold kept consumers and businesses in hibernation for much of the winter, likely slowing growth to a scant annual pace of 1.1 percent.
Yet thanks to a bounce-back in consumer spending, business investment and job growth, analysts foresee a strengthening economy through the rest of the year.
In fact, many say 2014 will be the year the recovery from the last recession finally achieves the robust growth that’s needed to accelerate hiring and reduce still-high unemployment.
Most analysts think annual economic growth has rebounded to about 3 percent in the current April-June quarter and will remain roughly at that pace through the second half of the year.
If that proves accurate, the economy will have produced the fastest annual expansion in the gross domestic product, the broadest gauge of the economy’s health, in nine years. The last time growth was so strong was in 2005, when GDP grew 3.4 percent, two years before the nation fell into the worst recession since the 1930s.
A group of economists surveyed this month said they expect unemployment to fall to 6.2 percent by the end of this year from 6.7 percent in March.