WASHINGTON (AP) — The economy likely stumbled at the start of this year, but there's probably little reason to worry: Economists foresee a solid rebound with the end of a harsh winter.
The Commerce Department on Wednesday will issue the first of three estimates of how fast the economy grew in the January-March quarter. The expectation is that growth slowed to an annual rate of around 1.1 percent, a lackluster pace that would be sharply down from a 2.6 percent annual growth rate in the previous quarter.
Economists think the first-quarter slump, caused in large part by the severe winter, will give way to stronger growth that should endure through the rest of the year.
Most analysts say a bounce-back in consumer spending, business investment and job growth will lift growth in the second quarter.
In fact, many say 2014 will be the year the recovery from the Great Recession finally achieves the robust growth that's needed to accelerate hiring and reduce still-high unemployment.
Analysts think annual economic growth has rebounded to around 3 percent in the current April-June quarter and will remain roughly that strong 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 by The Associated Press said they expected unemployment to fall to 6.2 percent by the end of this year from 6.7 percent in March.
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