By Karen MundyKaren MundyBloomberg / Bloomberg via Getty ImagesWASHINGTON — The U.S. economy grew at a 2.1% annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to a government report released Tuesday.
That’s above the 3.5% growth rate reported in the third quarter, but below the 3% pace of the fourth, which economists expect.
The unemployment rate fell to 4.1%, below the 5.3% level of the third and below the 6.5%, the Labor Department said.
Overall, the economy grew 4.2% in the last three months of 2017.
That was the fastest pace of growth since the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015, when the economy was in a recession.
The Commerce Department said that, for the first time in five years, the country’s gross domestic product increased in the first quarter of 2018.
That figure was up from 3.4% growth in the second quarter and below 3.7% growth the first three quarters of 2018 and the fourth of 2017 before that.
The data also showed that the labor market strengthened slightly in the quarter.
The economy added 222,000 jobs in the January-March quarter, the first gain since March 2016.
The Labor Department’s labor force report is one of the most important indicators of economic health and can show which industries have the most slack and when that slack will begin to tighten.
The report showed that wages grew at an annual rate of 2.5%.
That was slower than the 3 percent annual rate that economists had been expecting, and below what economists have been expecting for the past several quarters.
But the economy is still in a better position than it was before the Great Recession.
The economy added 3.2 million jobs in July-September, more than the 2.6 million economists had expected.