The U.S. economy grew slightly faster than first thought to end last year.
The Commerce Department reported Thursday the American economy, the world's largest, advanced 2.6 percent in the October-to-December period, up from an earlier estimate of 2.4 percent. The agency said consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economy, rose at its fastest pace in three years.
But fourth quarter growth was slower than the 4.1 percent growth in the July-September quarter. Analysts say the economy likely slowed even further in the first three months this year, perhaps to two percent.
The U.S. economy has been buffeted by an unusually cold and snowy winter, slowing factory production and keeping consumers away from shopping malls. But most U.S. economists are predicting three percent growth for 2014.
That is higher than the weak 1.9 percent recorded in 2013, which was down from 2.8 percent in 2012.
Unemployment claims decline
In a separate report, the government said the number of first-time claims for jobless benefits dropped 10,000 last week to 311,000, the lowest figure since late November.
The decline in unemployment compensation claims is a signal that companies are cutting the number of layoffs and that could lead to more hiring. The U.S. jobless rate has fallen since the depths of the U.S. recession in 2009, but at 6.7 percent in February is still higher than the historical level below six percent.