November Personal Spending Increased Modestly Led by Strong Growth in Durable Goods

By December 23, 2013Economy

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said that personal spending growth grew 0.5 percent in November, extending the 0.4 percent gain seen in October. Consumer spending has increased 3.5 percent over the past 12 months, its fastest pace so far in 2013 and an improvement from the 2.9 percent year-over-year rate in September. Nonetheless, it is clear that personal spending growth has decelerated from the 4.1 percent pace average of 2012 to the 3.1 percent average year-to-date in 2013.

Looking specifically at the November data, the growth in personal goods spending stemmed from an increase in durable goods expenditures. Spending on durable goods increased from an annualized $1.282 trillion in October to $1.307 trillion in November. Meanwhile, purchases of nondurable goods declined in the month from $2.667 trillion to $2.657 trillion.

Both durable and nondurable goods spending continue to increase over a longer term. Six months ago (May), for instance, durable and nondurable goods purchases were $1.255 trillion and $2.585 trillion, respectively.

Meanwhile, personal income rebounded in November, rising by 0.2 percent after falling 0.1 percent in November. Much of October’s decrease had been attributable to a sharp falloff in farm proprietors’ income, which was still down in November. But, it was offset by stronger growth in wages and salaries, which increased 0.4 percent for the month. For manufacturers, total wages and salaries rose from $754.3 billion to $759.1 billion. This figure has gradually moved higher. Six months ago, wages and salaries in the sector were $744.8 billion, and they moved steadily higher from the averages of $707.1 billion and $735.4 billion in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Perhaps disappointingly, the year-over-year pace of personal income continues to decelerate, down from 3.4 percent in October to 2.3 percent in November. In contrast to personal spending, this was the lowest annual pace of the year. Through the first 11 months of 2013, the annual pace has averaged 3.2 percent, down from the 4.2 percent rate experienced in all of 2012.

With personal spending outstripping personal income, the savings rate has fallen in each of the past two months, down from 5.1 percent in September to 4.5 percent in October to 4.2 percent in November.

Overall inflationary pressures remain minimal, with prices for personal consumption expenditures (PCE) unchanged for the second month in a row. The year-over-year rate of PCE growth was just 0.9 percent, and when you exclude food and energy, the annual rate of core PCE growth was 1.1 percent. Much as we have seen in recent consumer and producer price data, inflation remains below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target rate, which frees the Fed up to pursue its highly accommodative policies.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

Chad Moutray

Chad Moutray

Chad Moutray is chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), where he serves as the NAM’s economic forecaster and spokesperson on economic issues. He frequently comments on current economic conditions for manufacturers through professional presentations and media interviews. He has appeared on Bloomberg, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox Business and Fox News, among other news outlets.
Chad Moutray

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