GDP Growth Slows, Jobless Claims Improve

THE stop-and-go economic recovery of the past two years hit another slow patch during the first three months of this year, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.

The gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced in the United States, grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.8 percent in the January-March period.

That is less than half the robust 4.7 percent rate recorded during the fourth quarter, when a spending spree by holiday shoppers helped push the growth rate to a five-year high.

For some better news, the Labor Department reported yesterday that new applications for unemployment insurance dropped by 7,000 last week to 349,000.

The latest number of new claims was the smallest since 332,000 were filed during the week ending April 10. Many economists had expected claims to fall by about 9,000 last week.

The closely watched four-week moving average fell to 352,500 during the latest reporting period.

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