Americans spend at weakest pace in 20 months

by
June 28, 2011

By Christopher S. Rugaber-Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans spent in May at the weakest pace in 20 months, a sign that high gas prices and unemployment are holding back the economy.

Consumer spending was unchanged, the Commerce Department said Monday. That was the worst result since September 2009. And when adjusted for inflation, spending actually dropped 0.1 percent.

April’s consumer spending figures were revised to show a similar decline when adjusting for inflation. It marked the first decline in inflation-adjusted spending since January 2010.

Incomes rose 0.3 percent for the second straight month. But adjusted for inflation, after-tax incomes increased only 0.1 percent in May, after falling by the same amount in the previous month.

Stock futures fell immediately after the report was released. Dow futures plunged 115 points.

Neil Dutta, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, pointed out that inflation-adjusted, after-tax income is now slightly lower than it was in January.

“It was a very poor report all around,” he said. “I think it’s clear that higher gasoline prices are taking a bite out of consumer spending.”

Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. The spike in gas prices has forced many consumers to cut back on discretionary purchases, such as furniture and vacations, which help boost growth.

Fewer jobs and high unemployment have left workers with little leverage to ask for raises, and slow wage growth hurts the broader economy because consumers have less money to spend.

Hiring slowed considerably this spring after a strong start at the beginning of the year. The economy created only 54,000 jobs in May, the lowest number in eight months. That followed three months in which employers hired an average of 220,000 net new workers each month. The unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent last month.

The economy expanded at an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the January-March period. Many economists believe that growth is only slightly better in the current April-June period.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jun/27/americans-spend-weakest-pace-20-months/

 

 

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