WASHINGTON -- The Federal Reserve has boosted its outlook for U.S. economic growth this year and is slightly more optimistic about the unemployment rate, reflecting improvements in recent months.
In an updated forecast Wednesday, the Fed predicts the economy will grow between 2.4 percent and 2.9 percent in 2012. That compares with its forecast in January, when it estimated growth this year between 2.2 percent and 2.7 percent.
The Fed is estimating that unemployment, now at a three-year low of 8.2 percent, will be between 7.8 percent and 8 percent at year's end.
Its prediction for inflation is slightly higher but remains below its 2 percent target. And 11 Fed officials expect the first interest rate hike will not occur until 2014 or later, the same number who said so in January.