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Lagging consumer spending

There’s been a string of bad economic news recently, but it’s hard to make sense of all the data. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden interprets some of what’s going on.

“The recent economic news has not been good, and I think that’s been manifested as we’ve seen Wall Street take some big dips. Where I would focus people’s attention is what’s happening with, in fact, you and me — all of us as consumers — we account for about 70 percent of spending in the economy. So, really, we call the shots.

“And the shots we’ve been calling recently have not been very encouraging. Consumer spending actually went down according to two measures over the last couple of months. Also, wealth is still far below — wealth per person per household is still far below — what it was prior to the recession. Of course that’s … due to the big crash in housing markets values.

“And this is all reflected, I think, obviously in the employment situation. Not only do we have an unemployment rate in North Carolina at least that’s close to 10 percent — in the nation over 9 percent — but we actually have a factor that’s called employment as a percent of the population. Simply take all of the population in the country and ask how many of those people are employed. That number is at a 40-year low.

“So, really when you ask where’s the country going, I think first and foremost you have to look at households and consumers, look at their spending, look at their wealth, and look at their employment.”