The first glance at the economic speedometer known as Gross Domestic Product reveals the economy grew at a 3.2 percent annualized pace in the first quarter. This number will subsequently be revised twice more, so the number that ultimately gets carved into stone could be higher or lower. While 3.2 percent is notably slower than the 5.6 percent pace posted at the end of 2009, it is a more sustainable pace. The problem is that 3.2 percent probably isn't fast enough to get the job-creation engine kicked into high gear. Yes, job growth will continue, but a middling pace of 150,000 new jobs per month doesn't do much more than keep pace with population growth and barely makes a dent in the 15 million unemployed.
If you're a fan of low interest rates, there is nothing in today's GDP report that would compel the Fed to act sooner. Even the price index for gross domestic purchases decelerated from 2 percent annualized in the fourth quarter to 1.7 in the first quarter of 2010.
The story was consumer spending, which was the biggest contributor to economic growth in the first three months of the year. After a year and a half of belt-tightening, consumers showed a willingness to let loose a little bit now that they're feeling a bit more upbeat about the economy.