Most analysts say the factors that held back overall economic growth at the start of the year, including higher gas prices and lower consumer spending, were probably temporary. They predict the economy, which has been expanding for almost two years now, will grow ever faster for the rest of the year.
Retailers reported strong April sales, partly because Easter fell later than usual but also because people appear to be more willing to spend. Auto companies say sales are brisk. And factories have expanded production this year at the fastest pace in a quarter-century.
Nigel Gault, an economist at IHS Global Insight, cautioned that hiring could slow in the coming months, as suggested by a big increase in first-time applications for unemployment benefits over the past month.
But the job gains of the past three months, which average 233,000 for the government and private sector combined, show "good momentum that should allow the economy to absorb the twin shocks from the Middle East and Japan without too much damage," Gault said.
Associated Press Writers Christopher S. Rugaber and Ben Feller in Washington and Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.