The U.S. economic recovery is expected to gain momentum during the rest of the year, according to economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.
On average, the 56 economists polled downgraded their estimate of first-quarter growth in gross domestic product to 2.7 percent at a seasonally adjusted annual rate. That is down from an average first-quarter forecast of 3.6 percent just two months ago.
The respondents cited the still-weak housing market, severe weather, declining confidence and the earthquake in Japan as factors contributing to the pullback. The single biggest factor named by 35 economists was the rising price of oil sparked by unrest in the Middle East.
But the economists expect the first-quarter problems to be transitory, forecasting that growth will pick up to 3.6 percent by the fourth quarter and predicting that oil prices will fall back below $100 a barrel by the end of 2011, the newspaper reported.
The improving outlook extends to the labor market. Respondents predicted that the unemployment rate will fall to 8.3 percent by December from the 8.8 percent rate in March.