U.S. economy better than expected

The U.S. economy is growing faster than first estimated.

A report Thursday from the Commerce Department says the country’s economic output increased at a 2.5 percent annual rate between April and June. That is faster than earlier estimates and more than double the 1.1 percent growth rate in the first quarter.

The Commerce Department said the economy gained momentum on the strength of exports that were larger than previously estimated, while the increase in imports was less than first calculated.

The government also said that personal consumption spending was up. That is a key consideration, since consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the American economy, the world’s largest. Increased consumer spending helped offset cuts in government expenditures throughout the country.

In another report, the government said that initial claims for jobless benefits fell last week, a sign the country’s labor market is continuing to improve, with businesses laying off fewer workers. The U.S. said 331,000 people sought unemployment compensation, down 6,000 from the week before.

The country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, is closely watching economic trends as its weighs whether to start cutting its $85-billion-a-month purchase of securities to boost the country’s recovery from the depths of the recession several years ago. The Fed has said it could start to pare back its stimulus measures in the coming months if the economy continues to improve, although the national unemployment rate remains high at 7.4 percent.

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