The Bureau of Economic Analysis will release the personal income report on Friday. Economists expect a major increase in personal income and consumer spending in March, after a slight decrease in February. Based on the $1,400 stimulus checks, increased vaccine rollout and positive jobs reports, the numbers should show a consistently improving economy. Here are five things to look out for:
1. Personal income could show highest increase ever
In the years prior to the pandemic, there was usually no more than a 1% change in numbers from one month to the next. In March 2020, personal income saw its first major drop –1.8%. The numbers rapidly fluctuated each month after March 2020 because of government aid and changing jobs numbers. Until now, April 2020 had the highest personal income percent increase on record of 12.4% due to $1,200 stimulus checks given out to Americans. With, $1,400 stimulus checks going out in March of this year and other factors such as a positive March jobs report and an increase in vaccine rollout, economists predict as much as a 22.5% increase in personal income in the next report. This would be the highest ever recorded.
“I think this will be one of the if not the strongest, monthly report for disposable income we’ve ever had, because of the stimulus checks,” said James Sweeney, managing director and chief economist at Credit Suisse Securities LLC.
2. People most likely spent a lot more
Consumer spending is a major contributor to personal income data and shows economists how much people are spending money. A major way economists predict consumer spending numbers is by looking at the retail sales release through the Census Bureau, which comes out prior to personal income data. According to the Census Bureau, retail sales were up 9.8% in March. Economists believe this data bodes well for consumer spending numbers to be released on Friday.
“I estimate 4.5% up on consumer spending for the month of March. Retail sales were very strong and auto sales were very strong. It was a very good month here,” said Stan Shipley, senior managing director and economist at Evercore ISI.
3. With stimulus checks comes an increase in savings
Economists predict a sharp increase in personal savings, due to the stimulus checks that went out in March. March will also see a sharp increase in personal savings. Sweeney said this is because people are making enough from the stimulus checks to both save and spend the money.
“Savings will be up sharply and spending will be up sharply,” Sweeney said. “Some people will be using the checks to pay down bills, the best form of savings. Some people will actually accumulate checking accounts and savings account balances with it. Some people will buy assets and some people will consume.”
Sweeney also noted that whenever stimulus checks go out, there is a large increase in savings and to pay attention to past trends to predict future ones. In January, personal savings increased by $1,476 from the previous month. With a higher stimulus check in March, economists predict that trend to continue.
4. Government aid should have a major increase as well
Government aid in the form of transfer payments is expected to massively increase in March’s report. The most money spent in transfer payments is government social benefits, which includes unemployment, social security, stimulus payments, etc. Whenever the government sends out a stimulus check to Americans, transfer payments rise. After $600 checks were sent out to Americans this year, transfer payments increased by $1,981.8 billion from the previous month. This trend is sure to continue in the latest report.
“Transfer payments are likely to surge in the month of March,” Shipley said. “I estimate by 50 percent.”
5. These numbers show a constantly improving economy
Economists are certain these numbers are consistently showing an ever improving economy. Not only are the stimulus payments estimated to have encouraged spending this time around, but warmer weather, decreasing unemployment and increased vaccine distribution are all factors that are pushing the economy in the right direction.
“We have massive fiscal stimulus and we have massive monetary stimulus. We’re reopening the economy rapidly. The vaccine program has been successful,” Shipley said. “We’re going to have very good growth between now and the end of the year.”