Personal Consumption Falls as Weather Warms

Personal Consumption Falls as Weather Warms

On Thursday, the Commerce Department reported that personal consumption, which makes up around three-fourths of the economy, fell in May, further undermining claims that a particularly cold winter was behind the recent economic slowdown.

Personal consumption fell in January, but then rose in February and March. Consumer spending in these two months, in fact, were higher than in December 2013. Since the peak in March, the consumer has pulled back in both April and May, as warmer weather enveloped the country. 

If consumers’ wallets were frozen shut by a cold winter, the data isn’t reflecting it. If anything, the spring thaw has dampened consumption. Personal savings, and the savings rate, actually rose in May.

The weak consumer spending in the first two months of the 2nd Quarter, when spring was in bloom, does not suggest a reversal from the sharp economic decline in the first months of the year. Another bad, or lackluster, economic report will have to be explained away by factors other than the weather.