American consumers increased their spending by 5.6 percent in June while personal income fell by 1.1 percent, giving a mixed picture of a U.S. economy struggling to sustain recovery momentum amid a surge of reported COVID-19 cases and lackluster jobs data.
Consumer spending is a major driver of the U.S. economy, accounting for around 70 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), so the solid personal consumption expenditure number, released Friday by the Commerce Department, is an encouraging sign.
“The snapback in spending provides a good starting point for the third quarter,” said senior economist Sal Guatieri of BMO Capital Markets, in remarks to Market Watch. Yet “high-frequency indicators suggest consumption slowed in July due to the partial rollback of reopenings in several states.”
Yet a COVID-19 resurge in parts of the country and Thursdays discouraging unemployment numbers, which saw another 1.43 million Americans file for unemployment last week, cast 2doubt on the vigor of the economic recovery. By comparison, the pre-pandemic peak in new weekly jobless claims in America was 695,000 back in 1982. In total, there are some 30 million Americans on unemployment.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday flagged his concern the rebound may be weakening.
“All we can say today is that there is evidence in high-frequency data and surveys…It looks like we are seeing a slowdown,” Powell said in a press conference. “It might be short-lived, it might not. The timing seems related to the spike in cases” that began in June, he added.
Fridays solid spending data also contrasts with predictably dismal second-quarter GDP figures, released Thursday, which showed the U.S. economy suffered its steepest contraction since the Great Depression, shrinking by an astonishing 32.9 percent in annualized terms.
“We all know that shutting down the economy was going to lead to a very, very sharp contraction in GDP. But theres also evidence of a sharp rebound as well,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA.
Bright spots include continuing growth in both retail sales and consumer spending, while in May around 7.5 million jobs were created as lockdowns ended and businesses reopened.