Personal incomes were unchanged in December, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. For the fourth quarter, incomes were up just marginally, increasing a very modest 0.1 percent. For the year of 2013 as a whole, personal incomes rose 2.8 percent, below the 4.2 percent gain observed in 2012.
For manufacturers, total wages and salaries increased from $760.9 billion in November to $763.6 billion in December. Average manufacturing wages and salaries for 2013 were $749.3 billion, up 1.9 percent from $735.4 billion in 2012.
Meanwhile, personal spending rose 0.4 percent in December, extending the 0.6 percent increase seen in November. Overall, consumers spent 1.1 percent more in the fourth quarter, with a gain of 2.0 percent for all of 2013. This was slightly below the 2.2 percent increase observed in 2012.
December’s higher personal spending figure stemmed largely from a significant jump in nondurable goods activity, up 1.5 percent for the month. In contrast, personal durable goods spending declined 1.8 percent, offsetting the 1.8 percent jump in November. Looking at the entire year, however, durable goods spending growth outpaced that for nondurable goods, 7.1 percent to 2.1 percent.
With personal incomes flat for the month, the savings rate fell from 4.3 percent in November to 3.9 percent in December. This was the lowest rate in 11 months, and it was the third consecutive monthly decrease, down from 5.1 percent in September.
The other notable item to report from this release was the personal consumption expenditure (PCE) data, which looks at consumer inflation. The Federal Reserve prefers this measure when looking at pricing pressures. Year-over-year growth in the PCE has edged somewhat higher over the past couple months, up from 0.7 percent in October to 0.9 percent in November to 1.1 percent in December. Yet, this still suggests that inflation remains largely in-check, at least for now. Core inflation — which excludes food and energy — has risen just 1.2 percent over the past year, which remains well below the Fed’s stated target of 2 percent.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.