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During July 2009, US consumers saw little change (pdf) to their personal income or spending levels, but decreased personal saving by 5.6%, according to the latest estimates from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Retailer Daily reports that American consumers’ July 2009 personal income increased $3.8 billion, or less than 0.1%, while disposable personal income (DPI) decreased $4.6 billion, or less than 0.1%. DPI represents personal income less current personal taxes.


Meanwhile, US consumers’ personal consumption expenditures (PCE), which essentially reflect consumer spending, increased $25 billion, or 0.2%. Consumers were able to turn around or reduce their income-loss rates from June, which – according to revised BEA estimates – were $133.4 billion, or 1.1%, for personal income and $119.9 billion, or 1.1%, for DPI.

The rate of PCE growth slowed from its June rate of $60.9 billion, or 0.6%.

The BEA continues to attribute both positive and negative changes in personal income levels to different provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (pdf) of 2009, which reduced personal current taxes and increased government social benefit payments. In June, the BEA said the Act boosted personal current transfer receipts, which are benefits received without performing current services, much less than in May, resulting in lower personal income. Excluding this special factor, personal income increased $9.4 billion, or 0.1%, in July, increased $18.6 billion, or 0.2%, in June, and increased $9.6 billion, or 0.1%, in May.

While personal saving did not decrease as dramatically from June to July as it did from May to June, the amount still fell from $486.8 billion to $458.5 billion, a 5.6% drop. As a percentage of DPI, the personal saving rate fell from 4.5% to 4.2%. In contrast, personal saving fell from a revised $661.4 billion in May to $486.8 billion in June, a 26.3% drop. As a percentage of DPI, personal saving fell from approximately 6% to 4.5%.

Mild fluctuations in personal income and spending levels suggest US consumers are holding steady financially as the economy continues its sluggish performance. As a percentage of DPI, personal saving only fell 0.3%, also suggesting consumers are waiting until the economy shows signs of significant change in either direction before substantially altering their financial habits. Further backing this assumption is the mild 0.1% decrease in July 2009 US retail sales.

The August Consumer Confidence Index regained some lost ground after dropping for two straight months, driven primarily by gains in the forward-looking Expectations Index. While this suggests consumers are gaining optimism about the future outlook of the economy, other recent consumer and financial news has been mixed.

The Employment Trends Index remained flat for third straight month in July 2009, signaling that layoffs may have peaked, although significant new hiring is not expected. In addition, US consumer credit and borrowing rates decreased in June 2009, and the consumer credit rate also decreased in Q209. While this suggests a possibly healthier economic situation for consumers, it also indicates that consumers are cutting back on spending and may reflect consumers having access to credit and loans denied or limited. Furthermore, the RPI (Restaurant Performance Index) rose 0.3 percentage points in July 2009, but still remained below 100, indicating contraction in key industry indicators.

On the positive side, unemployment rate dropped from 9.5% in June 2009 to 9.4% in July 2009. As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this marks the first reduction in the unemployment rate since April 2008.

On the negative side, the US trade deficit

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