Today, the Commerce Department reported that consumer spending in January increased for the fourth straight month and increased by more than expected. They also announced that the December increase was greater than earlier reported. Unfortunately, spending increased five times as fast as personal income increased, which only increased about one-fourth of what was expected. Hopefully, we are not returning to our old habits. The US savings rate got as low as 1.2% in early 2008 before rising to 5.1% last Spring and declining since then.
At the same time, our economy is still losing jobs, albeit at a slower rate. Obviously, those who feel secure in their jobs are really ramping up their spending. The question is whether the 17 million people who are either unemployed or under-employed will ever feel that secure again? While we have experienced numerous recessions, this was the Great Recession. If the spending psyche of 17 million workers is damaged, it will be a drag on our consumption-based economy. Just maybe, that is a good thing.