A burst of growth put the U.S. economy just a shave below its pre-pandemic size in the first quarter, extending what is shaping up to be a rapid, consumer-driven recovery this year.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services made in the U.S., grew at a 6.4% seasonally adjusted annual rate in January through March, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That left the world’s largest economy within 1% of its peak, reached in late 2019, just before the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S.
Households, many of them vaccinated and armed with hundreds of billions of dollars in federal stimulus money, drove the first-quarter surge in output by shelling out more for cars, bicycles, furniture and other big-ticket goods. The federal government also stepped up spending—on vaccines and aid to businesses.
“If you had asked me a year ago where we would be today I certainly would not have said we would…