(Wall Street Journal; 3/14/13).
U.S. households spent 10.4% of their after-tax income on debt payments in the final three months of 2012 compared with 10.6% a quarter earlier, the 15th straight decrease and the lowest level since government tracking started in 1980, according to recently released Federal Reserve figures. Families’ debt obligations are well below their average since 1980 of 11.9%. If you include other payments that aren’t classified as debt — like rent and auto leases — the figure rises to 15.5%, but that’s still the lowest since 1981.
The report is the latest proof the American consumer is finally putting the recession in the rear-view mirror. Smaller debt payments mean Americans’ paychecks can go further — allowing them to spend more on goods and services. That demand, in turn, fuels hiring and economic growth. Last month, consumer spending rose an unexpected 0.4% excluding volatile items like cars, gasoline and building materials — despite paltry income growth, rising gasoline prices and higher taxes.