By the Numbers

Featuring brief segments of economic analysis from our senior economist Michael Bazdarich, PhD.

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July Personal Incomes Point to at Best Steady Consumption Growth

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) today released estimates of personal income and consumer spending for July. Within that report, we pay closest attention to private-sector wage and salary income and disposable personal income. Both measures rose 0.5% in July. Both also saw modest downward revisions to June growth and slight upward revisions to growth over January-May.

The data are summarized in the chart. For now, at least, July gains were enough to stem a downtrend in income growth that emerged in late-2014. However, as seen there, private wage incomes show only 2.8% growth over the last six months, while disposable incomes have grown at a 3.9% rate—both measures up from even lower rates through June. In 2014, disposable income grew more slowly than wage income because of expiring benefit income for those workers finding jobs. The recent pick-up in disposable income growth relative to wage income reflects stepped-up benefits for Medicare and Medicaid.

Remember that this is income growth before adjusting for inflation. Most other analysts have been looking at real income and touting the faster growth in real incomes, thanks to recent declines in headline inflation. Given that headline inflation has gone negative because of falling gas prices, this is nothing more than a restatement of the claim that falling gas prices will stoke consumption, a claim that we are still waiting to see bear fruit.

To us, decelerating income growth is hardly an impetus for accelerating spending growth. 3% growth plus or minus in nominal income is not horrible, but neither is it supportive of faster consumption growth than we have seen recently. Look for the consumer to continue to bide his time. The recent spending data are in accord with this assessment.

Income Growth
Income Growth
Chart Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis. As of 31 Jul 15

Michael Bazdarich

Product Specialist/Economist

Mike brings more than 40 years of experience to his position. "By the Numbers" will address economic data releases that are pertinent to a broad range of investors.

Prior to joining the Firm in 2005, Mike ran his own consulting firm, MB Economics. He earned his PhD in Economics at the University of Chicago.

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