WASHINGTON (AP) -- There's something strange about the U.S. economy in the first three months of every year: It frequently grows at a much slower pace than in the other nine months.
And on Friday, the government agency charged with calculating the economy's growth rate said it would adjust its methods in an effort to resolve the problem.
The changes could paint a much different picture of the economy's recent performance. Concerns flared when the government said late last month that the economy expanded just 0.2 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter. But many economists have challenged the government's data, and some have argued the first-quarter figure should be as high as 1.8 percent instead.
At issue is a process known as "seasonal adjustment," which is not nearly as convoluted as it sounds. Many routine patterns affect the economy, such as the layoff of temporary retail employees after the winter holidays, or a spike in consumer spending around Easter. Seasonal adjustment attempts to factor out those patterns to get a clearer picture of how the economy is actually performing.