WASHINGTON (Fox Business) - With inflation surging and pandemic-related stimulus rolling off the books, U.S. savers are under pressure.
In April, the U.S. personal savings rate fell to 4.4%, the lowest since September 2008, according to data from the Commerce Department published.
“In a typical cycle, a sharp drop in the saving rate would be a warning sign about the sustainability of spending,” Wells Fargo economists led by Tim Quinlan wrote in a note published earlier this week.
“Because balance sheets are in such better shape, we see less cause for concern today. In fact, it is actually our baseline forecast for the saving rate to fall below its prior-cycle average of 7.2% through the end of 2023.”
The personal savings rate is a data series among those most distorted by the government’s efforts to bolster the economy through the COVID-19 pandemic, and a decline has been expected.
In April 2020, the savings rate hit a record 33.8% as government checks hit consumer bank accounts and the spread of COVID-19 kept many people at home and businesses closed.
So while the level of savings is under pressure, economists estimate consumers are still sitting on a stock of unused savings worth trillions. And that’s why Ian Shepherdson at Pantheon Macroeconomics called April’s decline in the savings rate “no big deal.”
“The stock of excess savings is still $2.2 [trillion], and the rundown over the past three months has averaged only $41bn per month,” Shepherdson noted. “This can continue for a long time yet, but that won’t be necessary as real incomes will start to rise again in the second half [of 2022].”
Quinlan’s team at Wells Fargo recently estimated that U.S. consumers have some $2.3 trillion of “excess savings,” or savings above and beyond what pre-pandemic trends showed folks stocking away.
“Households have accumulated an estimated $2.3 trillion (not annualized) on their balance sheets,” Wells Fargo noted, “and household net worth rose about 30% over the past two years through the fourth quarter. This overall rise in net worth is true across wealth percentiles and leaves households in a relatively better financial position than after past recessions.”