The U.S. economy advanced a robust 6.4% in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday, as consumers started spending again with the easing of coronavirus restrictions and the vaccinations of millions of Americans. 

The recovery in the January-to-March period, on top of a 4.3% gain in the last three months of 2020, put the $21 trillion U.S. economy just slightly ahead of where it was in early 2020, before the pandemic swept into the country and ravaged its economy. 

Economists are predicting continued gains for the world’s biggest economy throughout 2021, fueled partly by government assistance to all but the wealthiest Americans and government spending to boost some hard-hit sectors of the economy. 

Many businesses are starting to hire more workers and ramp up operations that had been curtailed by the pandemic that has killed 574,000 Americans, the most in any country. 

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