Economic growth slowed to a crawl in the first three months of the year as a spike in gasoline, higher overall inflation and continued weakness in the housing market all took a toll on the recovery.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic health, rose at an annual rate of 1.8%, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. That's a significant slowdown from the 3.1% growth rate in the final quarter of 2010.
The sharp rise in oil prices in recent months was a major drag on growth. Besides cutting into consumer spending, higher prices for imported oil caused a rise in the nation's imports, which slowed the economy. The increase in imported goods shaved 0.8 percentage points off of growth by itself.
Rising overall inflation also took a bite out of growth in the quarter. Since GDP is adjusted for inflation, higher prices mean the economy must grow at a faster pace just to keep up. Consumer prices were up 3.8% from a year earlier, according to the report, compared to a rise of only 1.7% in the fourth quarter.
And the weak real estate market continued to weigh on the economy, as investment in homes and housing construction fell at a 4.1% pace in the quarter, while investment in non-residential real estate, such as offices, stores and factories, plunged by 29%.