GDP roars to 6.4 percent in first quarter of 2021

The economy grew at an annualized rate of 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021, according to Commerce Department data released Thursday.

The figure is up from 4.3 percent in the previous quarter and an early indication that the economy could reach annual growth levels this year not seen since the 1980s.

It was the largest first-quarter increase since 1984.

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The economy was boosted by an increase in vaccinations, declining COVID-19 cases and massive levels of support from the government.

Both the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill signed in the waning days of December and early effects of President BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE's $1.9 trillion relief bill pushed up the level of personal income and consumption in the first quarter.

Personal income, which had dropped $351.4 billion, or 6.9 percent in the previous quarter, increased a whopping $2.4 trillion, a surge of 59 percent.

Personal consumption pushed up at an annual rate of 10.7 percent, with goods up 23.6 percent and durable goods up 41.4 percent.

Many Americans appear to have saved their stimulus income as well. Personal savings shot up an astonishing $4.12 trillion in the first quarter, nearly double the $2.25 trillion in the fourth quarter.

Forecasters have projected that the economy will grow at a rapid clip as it recovers from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Forecasts for the year range from 6 percent to as high as 8 percent.

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Separately, a report from the Labor Department found that weekly jobless claims had fallen to a pandemic low of 553,000, a substantial improvement over recent months, but still double the pre-pandemic level.

"We're still probably a couple years away from pre-pandemic employment levels, but based on the powerful economic momentum built up in the first quarter, we should return close to a fully-functioning economy in the second quarter," said Robert Frick, a corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.

Updated at 9:03 a.m.