The U.S. economy grew in the first three months of this year, but more slowly than at the end of last year. President Barack Obama is encouraged by the news.
U.S. consumer spending saw its biggest increase in three years in the first three months of 2010, which drove the country's overall economy to its third consecutive quarter of growth.
However, the Commerce Department's estimate of 3.2-percent economic growth from January through March is weaker than the 5.6-percent growth from last October through December.
But President Obama says three consecutive quarters of growth are a good sign, after four straight quarters of shrinkage.
"After the single biggest economic crisis in our lifetimes, we are heading in the right direction," said President Obama. "We are moving forward. Our economy is stronger. That economic heartbeat is growing stronger."
The president says the first-quarter growth is "an important milepost" in the nation's economic recovery. But he acknowledges that unemployment is still high at 9.7 percent, and after visiting the hard-hit Midwest this week, he says more work lies ahead.
"For millions of Americans, our friends, neighbors and fellow citizens ready and willing to get back to work, 'You are hired' is the only economic news they are waiting to hear," said Mr. Obama.
But Mr. Obama says the rebounding economy will make more hiring possible.
"And that growth has been a condition for job growth," said the president. "The economy that was losing jobs a year ago is creating jobs today."
The Commerce Department report shows that Americans have been spending more lately on home furnishings, appliances, recreational goods, clothing, and meals at restaurants.
But analysts expect unemployment to stay high in the coming months, and an Associated Press poll says only 21 percent of Americans believe the economy is in good condition.