US Economic Growth Slows

Gas prices are displayed at a Shell station in Beaverton, Ore., April 24, 2012.
Gas prices are displayed at a Shell station in Beaverton, Ore., April 24, 2012.

U.S. economic growth slowed down in the first three months of this year, falling to an annual rate of 2.2 percent.

Friday's report from the Commerce Department says growth was cut 0.8 of a percentage point as governments cut spending, and imports exceeded exports.

These negatives outweighed consumer spending increases and some improvements in the battered housing sector.

Economist Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington says the first quarter's 2.2 percent growth is not fast enough to cut the U.S. unemployment rate from 8.2 percent.

“We are growing, we are adding jobs, but not at a fast enough pace to really start bringing down the unemployment rate," said Shierholz. " We would need to be above around 2.5 percent growth in order to really start bringing down the unemployment rate. “

In a VOA interview, Shierholz says Europe's financial and unemployment problems, and slowing growth in China could eventually hurt demand for U.S. exports and growth.

“Anything that [negatively] affects the economic wellbeing of people we export to, that hurts us in the United States," she said. "We want to see those problems around the world resolving as quickly as possible, not just for their sakes but for ours.”

Shierholz works at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, a non-government organization that studies public policy.

A separate report from the University of Michigan showed U.S. consumer confidence edged upward slightly to the highest level in a year.  Researchers said consumers expect the job situation to improve and gasoline prices to ease.  Economists watch consumer confidence for clues about the consumer spending that drives 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

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