FIRST QUARTER GDP GROWTH: 3.2%…. From Fall 2008 through Summer 2009, the nation’s gross domestic product retreated. The four consecutive negative quarters was the longest since the government began keeping track six decades ago.

We now have three consecutive quarters of positive growth. It’s not nearly strong enough growth to constitute a robust economy, but it’s enough to look like an economic recovery.

The United States economy continued to expand in the first quarter, but economists cautioned that the pace of growth is still not nearly fast enough to recover ground lost during the recession.

National output grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.2 percent last quarter, the Commerce Department reported Friday, after growth of 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 and 2.2 percent in the third quarter.

The steady growth has quelled fears that the downturn is not quite over.

While the first quarter of 2010 wasn’t nearly as strong as the fourth quarter of 2009, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise — the 5.6% growth was fueled by an “inventory bounce” that wouldn’t be repeated.

Consumer spending helped drive the first quarter numbers, with the biggest increase in three years.

And with that, here’s another home-made chart, showing GDP numbers by quarter since the Great Recession began in late 2007.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.