The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the first quarter of 2012, down from an earlier estimate of 2.2 percent, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

The second of three readings on the gross domestic product confirmed that the U.S. economy, which grew at a 3 percent rate in the 4th quarter of 2011, is slowing.

The downward revision in GDP growth for the January-March period was due, among other factors, to a pullback in consumer spending and a rise in imports, which increased the trade deficit.

Consumer spending, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of economic activity in the United States, rose by 2.7 percent in the first quarter, down from an initial estimate of 2.9 percent.

The U.S. economy is slowly recovering, but it is being weighed down by debt-laden consumers, analysts say.

GDP is forecast to grow at a stronger 2.2 percent annual rate in the second quarter.

The Federal Reserve said recently that it expected economic activity to rise between 2.4 percent and 2.9 percent this year, or two-tenths of a percent higher, respectively, than in the January forecast. EFE