Economy Grew Briskly in First Quarter, Government Says

Washington — The U.S. economy grew at a 3.2 percent rate in the first three months of 2010, the Commerce Department reported Friday, providing further evidence that an economic recovery is well underway.

Friday’s numbers were in the ballpark of mainstream forecasts and marked the third consecutive quarter of economic growth, suggesting that the deep economic recession that began in December 2007 is likely over.

Consumption rose 3.6 percent for the first quarter, the department said — a sign that consumers were feeling more comfortable with their economic position.

While welcome, the growth is still not strong enough to make a significant dent in unemployment. The economy needs to grow by a rate of at least 3.5 to 4 percent annually to sharply boost hiring and bring down a jobless rate that’s stood at 9.7 percent for the last three months. A record 6.5 million Americans have been out of work for six months or more.

Friday’s numbers were in line with a revised forecast from the International Monetary Fund, which earlier in April predicted the world’s economy would grow at a rate above 4 percent this year, significantly better than its initial 1.9 percent forecast.