Scott Horsley

Updated April 15, 2021 at 4:52 PM ET

Signs of an economic boom are emerging as Americans open up their wallets to spend freely.

Retail sales soared 9.8% in March, according to a report Thursday from the Commerce Department. The increase follows a 2.7% slump in February, which analysts blamed partly on severe winter weather.

Prices for some of your favorite things are going up. The big question is how long the price hikes will last.

Consumer prices rose 0.6% in March, according to the Labor Department — the sharpest increase in nearly nine years. Higher gasoline prices account for nearly half the increase, but prices for hotel rooms, baseball tickets and haircuts were also higher.

The United States may just become the engine of global economic growth this year, according to a new forecast released Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF expects the U.S. economy will grow 6.4% this year, its strongest growth in decades. That's faster than the 5.1% growth it was projecting just two months ago and nearly double the growth rate it predicted in October.

It's an idea that has been debated widely across global capitals: impose the same minimum corporate tax rate all over the world to prevent companies from shopping around for the country that can offer the smallest tax bill.

Now, it has a powerful new adherent. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday expressed support for a minimum tax rate, providing the vital backing of the U.S. government.

Updated April 2, 2021 at 12:34 PM ET

Hiring accelerated last month as U.S. employers added 916,000 workers to their payrolls. It was the largest job gain since August, fueled in part by an improving public health outlook and a new round of $1,400 relief payments.

President Biden cheered the encouraging jobs report during remarks to reporters at the White House.

Millions of people are at risk of losing electricity in the coming weeks because of unpaid power bills, even as Congress has authorized billions of dollars in supplemental relief.

Overdue power bills have mushroomed during the pandemic as job losses mounted and residential power consumption soared.

Many states restrict power shutoffs during the winter. But with those safeguards expiring in more than a dozen states this month, the threat of widespread power interruption is growing.

Updated March 26, 2021 at 11:29 AM ET

Updated at 11:29 a.m.

George Holland, the mayor of Moorhead, Miss., remembers the feeling when he heard that Regions Bank was closing its branch in his small, rural town a few years ago.

"That was actually the only bank in our community and the next-closest bank was probably 8, 9 miles to Indianola," Holland said. "I was thinking, 'What are we going to do?' "

A year after the pandemic plunged the U.S. economy into it worst crisis since the Great Depression, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is largely satisfied with the central bank's rapid-fire response.

"I liken it to Dunkirk," Powell said in an interview with NPR's Morning Edition, referring to the emergency rescue of British and Allied forces from France in World War II. "It was time to get in the boats and get the people, not to check the inspection records and things like that. Just get in the boats and go."

Updated at 10 a.m. ET

The economy is staging a strong but still incomplete recovery, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is set to tell Congress on Tuesday, exactly a year after stock markets hit their lowest level during the pandemic.

The economy is now "much improved," Powell is set to say according to prepared remarks, thanks to "swift and vigorous action" by Congress and the central bank to avoid an even more crippling downturn.

The Federal Reserve expects the U.S. economy to grow faster this year, although it still expects only a modest uptick in inflation.

The central bank issued its new forecast at the end of a two-day meeting. It comes as the public health outlook is improving and after Congress approved trillions of dollars in federal spending to help the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Consumers put their pocketbooks on ice last month after a spending spree in January.

Retail sales fell 3% in February, according to the Commerce Department. That's the sharpest decline since the early months of the pandemic, and a much steeper drop than economists had expected.

For Nancy Cordeiro, a plan by the Biden administration to provide her family with a monthly allowance is more than just about money that she sorely needs. It's also about restoring something she has lost at times during the pandemic: her pride.

"When you have to go to the food bank, there's a lot of pride at stake and people are suffering from that," Cordeiro said. "They're getting depressed over that, because all that weight is on them, just like it is on me."

The U.S. economy is about to get a shot of its own.

The $1.9 trillion relief package passed by Congress on Wednesday is expected to give a substantial boost to the world's largest economy once it's signed by President Biden, putting more money in people's pockets just as an improving pandemic outlook opens new avenues for them to spend it.

Hiring picked up steam in February as a winter wave of coronavirus infections eased and consumers spent more freely.

U.S. employers added 379,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate dipped to 6.2%.

For Americans factories, business is good these days. Almost too good.

Unexpectedly strong demand for furniture, appliances and other manufactured goods is providing a windfall to many of the country's industries.

But as factory gears spin faster to meet the surging demand, a big headache is emerging: Supply chains are getting stretched more than ever, and critical components are proving a lot harder to procure.

Take the word of Drew Greenblatt, the president of Marlin Steel in Baltimore.

"The economy is snapping back in a big way," Greenblatt said.

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