Krugman’s reading the BEA data, but I think the data is probably wrong about the average consumer:
Yesterday’s report on consumer incomes, spending, and saving showed a sharp rise in the personal savings rate; it also showed a decline in nominal personal incomes, the third in a row, reflecting the weakening economy.
From the report:
Personal saving — DPI less personal outlays — was $378.6 billion in December, compared
with $299.1 billion in November. Personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal
income was 3.6 percent in December, compared with 2.8 percent in November.
That doesn’t jibe with mint.com’s analysis of consumer trends:
But what the data, the hard facts, mean for you – if you run a consumer business – is that your customers are spending $400 less each month than they were a year ago, have burned through half of their savings, and on average have taken on an additional $5k in debt.
I’m sure there are confounding factors on both sides, but I’ll take mint.com’s assessment because it accounts for people from the bottom up, rather than the top down, and is far more accurate precisely for this reason.
For those of you curious, mint is a personal finance tracking website. Think Quicken or Money, only it’s web-based, and as a result, mint is able to track trends in interesting ways that looking at the economy from 30,000 feet is unable to do.