U.S. Consumer Spending Increased in May, Income Fell

With the United States still navigating unprecedented times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report brings both good and bad news on the economic front. According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal consumption expenditures (PCE) grew 8.2% in May to reach $994.5 billion. As CNN Business notes, that’s a reversal from last month when spending dropped by 12.6%. Meanwhile the “real PCE” — which factors in inflation — noted $892.6 billion in consumer spending for the month. That dollar amount included $590.4 billion spent on goods and $363.8 billion on services. For the month, Americans also had a savings rate of 23.2%. While impressive, this was down from the 32.2% rate observed in April.

While the increases in PCE may be encouraging for a potential recovery, the other part of the equation paints a less optimistic picture. For May, personal income decreased $874.2 billion — off 4.2%. At the same time, disposable income fell 4.9% ( 5% in “real” terms).

The BEA report suggests the dip in income was partially due to a reduction in those receiving federal economic recovery funds. Although directed payments to Americans authorized under the CARES Act continued to go out in May, they did so at a lower level than in April. Another aspect of the CARES Act that allows unemployed workers to earn an addition $600 per week remained active in May and partially offset what could have been a larger drop in income.

Speaking to Barrons, MUFG chief financial economist Chris Rupkey said of the latest report data, “The future spending plans of Americans are very much in doubt after personal income fell 4.2% in May. You can’t spend it if you haven’t got it, and right now the economy’s recovery is being dragged down by the millions and millions of Americans without jobs [who] simply haven’t got it.” Elsewhere, Oxford Economics chief U.S. economist Greg Daco explained to the outlet that some of the positive signs the economy has seen could actually lead to trouble, noting “We fear the ‘summer policy paradox’ in which policy makers misinterpret strong growth rebounds from depressed levels of activity as reason to forego further stimulus, putting the recovery at risk.”

To Daco’s point, it’s currently unclear if or when another round of stimulus could pass through Congress. Despite the House of Representatives passing the HEROES Act last month, the bill has yet to be taken up in the Senate. Instead, there’s been talk about a different type of stimulus — namely a potential $4,000 travel tax credit for Americans — being discussed on the right side of the aisle. Given this uncertainty and the mixed messages coming from the various economic reports, it seems too early to tell what kind of recovery the United States could see in the months ahead. All we can do is hope for the best.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded DyerNews.com in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

Other Articles by Jonathan Dyer

Bilt Rewards Launches Travel Portal with Benefits for Cardholders

Last year, the startup Bilt made a splash when it announced a new service that would reward users for paying their rent. That premise was then expanded upon with the launch of the Bilt Mastercard, which is issued by Wells Fargo. Now, continuing to capitalize on both the hype of their product and the demand for travel, Bilt has debuted another new offering for customers. This week, Bilt Rewards announced...

Cash App Introduces Round-Up Investing Feature for Debit Card

Debit card customers looking to grow their investments gained a new, automated option today as Block Inc. (formerly Square Inc.) officially announced a new feature for its popular Cash App. Now, customers with the Cash App Cash Card can opt into Round Ups as a means of growing their investments. When this feature is toggled on, Cash App will round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invest...

Marqeta Expands Credit Program with New APIs and More

A FinTech that specializes in creating credit card experiences is rolling out some new features. This week, Marqeta announced what it calls a "significant expansion" of its credit platform. This includes more than 40 new credit APIs that will further help clients craft and launch their own credit card products. Additionally, the company notes an updated intuitive dashboard. Using this platform, businesses can create unique card options that can not...