WASHINGTON — Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the U.S. — increased at an annual rate of 3.1% in the third quarter of 2012, according to the final estimate released by the Commerce Department Thursday.

The growth in GDP, the largest since the third quarter of last year, is above the 2.8% increase projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters and is higher than the revised 2.7% pace reported in the preliminary third quarter estimate released in November.

GDP increased 1.3% in the second quarter.

Personal consumption expenditures increased 1.6% in the third quarter. Excluding food and energy, PCE increased 1.1%.

The increase in real GDP reflected the 1.6% increase in PCE, as well as gains of an unspecified amount in private inventory investment, 9.5% in federal government spending, 13.5% in residential fixed investment, and 1.9% in exports, the Commerce Department said. The 9.5% increase in federal government spending was the largest since the second quarter of 2010, when there was a 9.7% gain.

Those gains were partially offset by a decrease of 1.8% in nonresidential fixed investment. Imports, which are subtracted from the calculation of GDP, also declined 0.6%, the Commerce Department said.

The final estimate is based on data that is more complete than the preliminary estimate issued in November, according to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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