US economy better than expected
Falling exports and consumer spending have hurt US economic growth
The US economy shrank at an annualised rate of 5.5% in the first three months of 2009, better than previously thought, government figures show.
Gross domestic product (GDP) had been previously estimated at a 5.7% decline.
The fall in GDP now seems to be easing, after shrinking at an annualised pace of 6.3% in the previous quarter.
But concern about the fragility of the economy was revived by data showing the number of jobless claims unexpectedly rose last week.
The Labor Department said the number of people filing first-time claims for jobless benefits increased by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 627,000. Economists had expected about 600,000 claims.
They had also predicted that the Commerce Department's final estimate of US GDP would remain unchanged.
The slight moderation in the pace of the recession in the first three months of the year offered some hope that the current quarter, which ends on 30 June, will be even less sharp.
"The recession continues, but the rate of contraction in the second quarter should be much slower," said Augustine Faucher, director of macroeconomics at Moody's Economy.com.
Consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of domestic economic activity, rose 1.4% last quarter, the department also said.
It had fallen 4.3% in the final quarter of 2008, the biggest decline in 28 years.
The Federal Reserve, the US central bank, said this week that the latest economic data "suggests that the pace of economic contraction is slowing".