Personal Income, Expenditures Rise in February; Unemployment Dips; Consumers Grumpier

Both personal income and personal consumption increased by 0.3 percent in February. Twenty-nine states experienced unemployment rate decreases in February compared with January. The final March Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index came in at 80.0, a slight increase from the mid-March reading of 79.9.

Personal income increased $47.7 billion, or 0.3 percent in February, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis on Friday. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) — consumers out consuming, that is — increased $30.8 billion, or also 0.3 percent for the month.

Real PCE (which is adjusted to remove price changes) increased 0.2 percent in February, compared with an increase of 0.1 percent in January. The price index for PCE was up 0.1 percent in February, the same increase as in January, and if food and energy are taken out of the calculations, the index was still up 0.1 percent in February, the same as in January. Inflation’s a fairly limp little balloon these days.

Disposable personal income — personal income less personal taxes — increased $42.3 billion, or 0.3 percent in February, the BLS reports. That’s the same percentage increase as in January. The savings rate (savings as a percentage of disposable personal income) was 4.3 percent in February, compared with 4.2 percent in January.

Most States See Unemployment Edge Down 

Twenty-nine states experienced unemployment rate decreases in February compared with January, 10 states had increases, and 11 states and the District of Columbia saw no change, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. Forty-nine states and D.C. had unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, while one state saw no change.

The largest monthly increases in employment were in California (up 58,800 jobs), Texas (up 37,600), and Florida (up 33,400), while the largest month-over-month percentage increase was in oil-boom North Dakota, up 1.3 percent, while West Virginia saw employment gain 0.6 percent. The largest decrease in employment for the month occurred in North Carolina (down 11,300 jobs), followed by Wisconsin (down 9,500) and Georgia (down 5,800); the largest monthly percentage drop in employment occurred in Alaska (down 0.7 percent), followed by Vermont (down 0.5 percent).

At 9 percent, Rhode Island continued to have the highest unemployment rate among the states in February, having taken that unwanted distinction from Nevada not long ago. North Dakota again had the lowest jobless rate, coming in at 2.6 percent. All together, 22 states had jobless rates significantly lower than the U.S. figure of 6.7 percent, six states had measurably higher rates, and 22 states and D.C. had rates that weren’t much different from that of the nation.

Consumers a Little More Grumpy

The final March Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index came in at 80.0, which was a slight increase from the mid-March reading of 79.9, according to the university on Friday. That’s down from the end of February, when the reading was 81.6, and lower than economists were expecting.

Though down much of the week, Wall Street ended the week on an up note on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 58.83 points, or 0.36 percent. The S&P 500 advanced 0.46 percent and the Nasdaq was up 0.23 percent.