By Vicki Needham - 07/30/14 08:35 AM EDT
The nation’s economy expanded at a 4 percent annual rate in the second quarter, better than expected and underlining the sense that a long-awaited recovery is now picking up.
It’s a big bounce back from the first quarter, when the Commerce Department estimated the economy contracted at a 2.1 percent annual rate as a difficult winter bit into growth.
The good news comes the same day President Obama is slated to talk about the economy in Kansas City, Mo.
The bounce back was helped by consumer spending, which increased at a 2.5 percent pace, up from 1.2 percent in the January-March period.
The nation also has experienced several months of strong job gains, with unemployment falling to 6.1 percent.
But the good economic news hasn't helped Democrats, who are in danger of losing their majority in the Senate this fall. They also haven't led to stronger approval numbers for Obama.
Economists expect the economy to continue its acceleration with yearly growth coming in around 3 percent.
Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics, said the second-quarter figure is in line with the recent run of strong jobs growth of more than 200,000 a month.
“These numbers feel more consistent with the jobs numbers,” he said.
“This is more supportive of the idea that the economy is gaining traction and will look meaningfully better as we move into the last half of the year and into 2015.”
Growth was driven mainly by consumer spending and an increase in business inventories.
Inventories contributed 1.66 percentage points to GDP growth after subtracting 1.16 points in the first quarter.
Economist Justin Wolfers cautioned on Twitter that fast inventory growth doesn’t necessarily mean more growth down the road.
The economy also got a lift from business investment, government spending and spending on home building.
After a cold winter, exports increased 9.5 percent in the second quarter after a 9.2 percent decrease in the first.
Housing, which had been falling for two straight quarters, rebounded in the spring, growing at a 7.5 percent annual rate.
The fresh growth data isn’t expected to change the policy direction of Federal Reserve officials, who wrap their two-day meeting on Wednesday.
Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen had brushed off the first quarter contraction as a temporary fluctuation affected mostly by the weather.