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August Personal Income Improves at Fastest Pace since February

Personal income grew in August at its fastest pace since February, and consumer spending grew faster than July, the ""Bureau of Economic Analysis"":http://bea.gov/newsreleases/national/pi/2013/pdf/pi0813.pdf (BEA) reported Friday. The growth matched economist forecasts of a 0.4 percent boost in income and a 0.3 percent increase in spending. BEA also revised up its estimate of both spending and income growth in July.

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The report suggested a strong growth in spending for the third quarter--ending Monday--which would boost GDP. In the first two months of the second quarter, during which the economy grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.5 percent, consumer outlays were essentially flat in the first two months, dropping 0.2 percent in April and then increasing by the same amount in May. Spending rose 0.6 percent in June, contributing to the GDP growth.

Total employee compensation, which had fallen 0.2 percent in July, rose .04 percent ($34.2 billion) in August. Wages rose an aggregate 0.4 percent ($30.4 billion) in August after dropping $18.5 million.

The calendar often effects wage and government transfer payments. There were four Fridays--traditional paydays--in July and five in August.

Farm income, which had struggled earlier the year combatting both droughts and flooding in different parts of the country, rose $7.9 billion (6.8 percent) in August, the second straight month of income growth after farm income fell in April, May and June.

Government transfer payments--essentially Social Security and Medicare (with a few other payment categories thrown in)--rose a collective 0.4 percent ($10.8 billion) in August. $10.6 billion came from Social [COLUMN_BREAK]

Security. Medicare payments increased 0.6 percent ($3.7 billion). Those increases were offset by a 3.6 percent ($2.3 billion) drop in unemployment insurance payouts.

Reflecting turmoil in both the debt and equity markets, personal interest payments fell a combined 0.2 percent ($4.5 billion) with interest--despite an increase in rates--dropping 0.3 percent ($3.5 billion) and personal dividend payments slipping 0.1 percent ($1 billion).

Personal savings grew almost $18 billion to 4.6 percent of disposable (essentially after-tax) income.

Most of the spending increase in August was for services, which includes spending on vacations (up $28.3 billion), while spending for goods rose $6.2 billion. Spending on durable goods--typically big-ticket items paid with borrowed funds--increased $6.7 billion, while spending on non-durable goods dropped $0.5 billion. Spending on durable goods often serve as an indicator of consumer confidence.

Consumer spending is about 70 percent of the nation's economy, so this report for the first month of the quarter offers the first glimpse into third-quarter GDP. BEA reported on Thursday that GDP for the second quarter improved at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.5 percent.

BEA also reported the personal consumption price index--which tracks spending, not prices, as the consumer price index does--increased less than 0.1 percent in July compared with an increase of 0.2 percent in June. Year-over-year, the index is up 1.4 percent. Excluding food and energy, the index rose 0.1 percent in July--compared with 0.2 percent in June--and is up 1.2 percent in the last year.

The price index for PCE increased 0.1 percent in August, the same increase as in July. The PCE price index, excluding food and energy, increased 0.2 percent in August, compared with an increase of 0.1 percent in July. Both indices are up 1.2 percent from a year earlier.

Then Federal Reserve has set a target of 2.0 percent for inflation as a trigger--along with a 6.5 percent unemployment rate--for phasing out its monetary policy designed to stimulate the economy.

_Hear Mark Lieberman next Friday on P.O.T.U.S. radio, Sirius-XM 124, at 6:20 a.m. Eastern and follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics._

About Author: Mark Lieberman

Mark Lieberman is the former Senior Economist at Fox Business Network. He is now Managing Director and Senior Economist at Economics Analytics Research. He can be heard each Friday on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM Radio 124.
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