WASHINGTON — The nation’s consumers ramped up their spending in March at the fastest pace in 4½ years, a sign that the economy is gaining momentum after its winter slowdown, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Thursday.
The department said consumer spending rose 0.9 percent, the largest monthly gain since April 2009. The department also revised up its estimate of the spending increase in February to 0.5 percent from 0.3 percent. Consumers spent more on manufactured goods, with autos and furniture led much of the gains, according to a separate retail sales report released last month.
Higher spending points to stronger growth ahead because consumer activity accounts for roughly 70 percent of the economy. Harsh winter weather in January and February curbed spending, and the economy barely grew at an annual rate of just 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014. But Thursday’s report suggested that last quarter’s slowdown was confined mainly to January and February, before consumers stepped up spending in March.
Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.