There are more jobs now, for more money, than any time since the recession ended in mid-2009. MarketWatch reported that gas prices are at a six-year low, while the stock market is near near an all-time high.
The question is whether Americans will spend that newfound wealth.
So far, the answer has been no.
The pace of consumer spending continues to disappoint even though unemployment has tumbled below 6% and U.S. added 3.1 million jobs in 2014 — the biggest gain since 1999. Although consumers are better off than they’ve been in years, they sure haven’t acted like it. Americans are still saving more and shopping frugally.
Just look at what’s happened in the past few months. The savings rate rose in December to 4.9% to mark the highest level since midsummer, government data showed. At the same time, both retail sales and consumer spending fell sharply.
There’s a big asterisk to that last factoid: in both cases the negative readings reflected lower prices, namely at the gas pump. Even so, inflation-adjusted consumer spending fell slightly in December.
Which again raises the question heading into this week’s report on retail sales. When will consumers start to spend that extra cash — and pump up the U.S. economy?
Retailers seem to expect it will happen soon, as they’ve added 113,000 new positions over the last three months.
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