U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 0.2 percent in the first quarter this year, as uneven growth still haunted the world' s largest economy amid a protracted weak recovery, according to an advance estimate released by the U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday.
Personal consumption, which accounts for about 70 percent of the U.S. economy, grew 1.9 percent, compared with an increase of 4. 4 percent in the previous quarter.
Non-residential fixed investment shrank while residential investment sharply slowed. Exports contracted 7.2 percent, compared with an increase of 4.5 percent, as a stronger dollar sapped demands for U.S. goods.
The U.S. economy typically experienced harsh times in the first quarter in recent years. It contracted 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014, as the unprecedented chilly winter weather pummeled business investment and consumer spending.
The sharp slowdown this year is blamed for a bout of blizzards and a strong dollar's drag on exports.
Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said economic growth in the first quarter was restrained by factors including tepid foreign demand and harsh winter weather. At the same time, households saved most of their gains from low energy prices.
"The sensitivity of our exports to foreign demand, especially in an environment where foreign demand is slowing, underscores the importance of reducing trade barriers and opening foreign markets to our exports," he noted in a statement.
Since June, national average gasoline prices have fallen about 1.10 dollars per gallon, providing the equivalent of about a 700 dollars tax cut per household.
"Households appear to have put most of those gains in the bank, as the personal saving rate has risen by 0.6 percentage point over the past four quarters," Furman noted. It suggested improvement in households' financial situation, and will help foster conditions for stronger consumer spending growth next year, he added.
The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that the U.S. economy slowed during the winter times, downgrading from an assessment of "moderated somewhat" in its previous statement. It also noted the slowdown was in part due to transitory factors. It offered no signal of any rates hike in sight.