The U.S. economy inched forward at the weakest pace in two years from January through March, as consumer spending slowed, business investment plunged and exports declined further.

The Commerce Department says the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, grew by a tiny 0.5 percent in the first quarter.

That is down from 1.4 percent growth in the fourth quarter. The January-March performance was the poorest showing since GDP contracted by 0.9 percent in the first three months of 2014.

Since this recovery began almost seven years ago, GDP has been weak in the first quarter each year only to rebound in the spring. Economists are looking for a similar pattern this year, forecasting second quarter growth of around 2 percent.