The United States economy grew faster early this year than previously believed.
Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, expanded at an annual rate of 2 percent in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That was a significant upward revision from the 1.1 percent growth rate in preliminary data released in April. (An earlier revision, released last month, showed a slightly stronger rate of 1.3 percent.)
An alternative measure of growth, based on income rather than production, painted a different picture, showing that the economy contracted for the second quarter in a row. That measure was also revised upward from the prior estimate.
The report underscored the surprising resilience of the country’s economic recovery, which has remained steady despite high inflation, rapidly rising interest rates and persistent predictions of a recession from many forecasters on Wall Street.
The new data is cause for “genuine optimism,” wrote Gregory Daco, chief economist at EY, the consulting firm previously known as Ernst & Young, in a note to clients. “This is leading many to rightly question whether the long-forecast recession is truly inevitable.”
Consumers are powering the recovery through their spending, which increased at a 4.2 percent rate in the first quarter, up from a 1 percent rate in late 2022 and faster than the 3.7 percent rate initially reported in April. That spending, fueled by a strong job market and rising wages, helped offset declines in other sectors of the economy like business investment and housing.
What It Means: Complications for the Fed.
The continued strength of the consumer economy poses a conundrum for policymakers at the Federal Reserve, who have been raising interest rates in an effort to curb inflation without causing a recession.
On the one hand, data from the first quarter provides some signs of success: Economic growth has slowed but not stalled, even as inflation has cooled significantly since the middle of last year.
But many forecasters, both inside and outside the central bank, are skeptical that inflation will continue to ease as long as consumers are willing to open their wallets — meaning policymakers are likely to take further steps to rein in growth. At their meeting this month, Fed officials left interest rates unchanged for the first time in more than a year, but they have signaled they are likely to resume rate increases in July.
The Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, at a conference in Madrid on Thursday, noted that inflation has repeatedly defied forecasts of a slowdown.
“We’ve all seen inflation be — over and over again — shown to be more persistent and stronger than we expected,” he said.
What’s Next: Data on income and spending.
Mr. Powell and his colleagues will get more up-to-date evidence on their progress on Friday, when the Commerce Department releases data on personal income, spending and inflation from May.
Jeanna Smialek contributed reporting.