This week: economic growth, unemployment, inflation update

Economic gauge

The Commerce Department releases its initial estimate of first-quarter economic growth on Thursday.

Economists expect growth slowed to just 2% in the first quarter of 2024, down from 3.4% in the final quarter of 2023 and 4.9% in the third quarter. Consumers are still spending, which is a key driver for economic growth, but they're facing persistent pressure from high borrowing rates and inflation.

GDP, seasonally adjusted annual rate, by quarter:

Q4 2022: 2.6%

Q1 2023: 2.2%

Q2 2023: 2.1%

Q3 2023: 4.9%

Q4 2023: 3.4%

Q1 2024 (est.): 2.0

Source: FactSet.

Tracking unemployment

The Labor Department releases its weekly tally of unemployment benefit applications on Thursday.

The proxy for layoffs held steady last week at 212,000 jobless claims. They have mostly remained in a narrow range since February. The resilient labor market has helped bolster consumer spending, while giving the Federal Reserve more reason to maintain high interest rates to tame inflation.

Initial jobless benefit claims, weekly, seasonally adjusted:

March 8: 212,000

March 15: 212,000

March 22: 212,000

March 29: 222,000

April 5: 212,000

April 12: 212,000

Source: FactSet

Inflation gauge

The Commerce Department delivers its March snapshot of U.S. consumer spending and inflation on Friday.

The Federal Reserve closely watches the report for inflation signals. It raised interest rates to their highest levels in 22 years in an effort to tame inflation, which has been cooling. Wall Street is hoping for rate cuts to begin in 2024, but inflation remains stubbornly higher than the Fed's 2% target. Analysts forecast that year-over-year inflation ticked higher to 2.6%.

PCE Deflator, annual percent change, seasonally adjusted:

Oct.: 2.9

Nov.: 2.7

Dec.: 2.6

Jan.: 2.4

Feb.: 2.5

March (est.): 2.6

Source: FactSet