The Bureau of Economic Analysis said that personal spending growth weakened somewhat in September, even as personal incomes grew. Consumers purchased 0.2 percent more in September, down from the 0.3 percent rate of August. On a year-over-year basis, the pace of personal spending growth has decelerated from 3.3 percent in June to 2.7 percent in September, suggesting some degree of hesitance on the part of Americans to increase their overall spending.
This was particularly true for durable goods products, which spending in this category essentially flat in the third quarter, according to this data. For the month, spending on durable goods was down 1.3 percent in September, rebounding from a 1.4 percent increase in August. In contrast, nondurable goods spending in the third quarter was up 1.3 percent, with a 0.6 percent gain in September.
Meanwhile, personal income growth remained strong, up 0.5 percent in both August and September. Over the course of the past 12 months, incomes have risen 3.7 percent, but in the third quarter, the annual pace accelerated to 4.45 percent, a sign of renewed strength.
Manufacturing sector wages and salaries edged higher for the month, up from $754.3 billion to $754.6 billion. This figure has grown slow-but-steady, reflecting upward movement from averages of $707.1 billion and $735.4 billion in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Total wages and salaries were up 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent over the past two months.
With growth in personal income outstripping personal spending in each of the past three months, the savings rate has moved higher. It has grown from 4.4 percent in June to 4.9 percent in September. This was the highest savings rate of 2013 so far, approaching the average of 5.3 percent for January to November of 2012. (I omitted December due to accelerated payouts skewing the data in the lead-up to the fiscal cliff deal.)
These data also show that inflationary pressures remain modest. Similar to the recent consumer price index report, price gains for consumer items have risen in an acceptable range. Year-over-year growth in prices for core personal consumption expenditures was 1.2 percent in September, the same as in August and roughly unchanged for the past six months. This keeps prices below the 2 percent growth threshold established by the Federal Reserve Board, with minimal inflationary pressures for now.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.