The figure is considered and advanced estimate, with numbers that will firm up in the next two months as more data become available.
The advanced figure is a solid notch lower than the 3 percent of the preceding quarter.
Commerce said positive contributions for the GDP came from consumer spending, exports, private inventory investment and residential fixed investment.
They were "partly offset" by federal government spending, non-residential fixed investment and state and local government spending. In addition, imports, which subtract from the GDP, increased in the first quarter.
"These are encouraging signs that the private sector is continuing to heal from the worst recession since the Great Depression," said Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Krueger noted it was the 11th consecutive quarter of U.S. economic expansion and said gains would have been higher without a sharp decline in government spending.
"If only the private sector components of GDP are considered, GDP grew by 3.5 percent," Krueger said in a statement.
The breakdown of the GDP includes a 2.9 percent rise in consumer spending, compared with a 2.1 percent increase in the fourth quarter.
Output of durable goods rose by 15.3 percent but the growth for the goods had been faster in the fourth quarter, up 16.1 percent.
Output of non-durable goods -- items that are not expected to last three years -- rose 2.1 percent following fourth-quarter growth of 0.8 percent.
Federal government spending fell 5.6 percent in the first quarter, a sizable drop but a slower decline than the fourth quarter's 6.9 percent decrease in federal spending.
Spending on defense fell 8.1 percent following a 12.1 percent decline in the fourth quarter.
Analysts have warned that Europe's economy, which is predicted to fall into a recession in several countries, is poised to present a serious obstacle to U.S. growth in the next few quarters. Growing business in emerging markets is expected to offset some of that decline.
Analysts also warn that it takes GDP growth of at least 3 percent for the economy to add enough jobs to keep up with the growing population.