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Personal income rises in January and so does consumer spending on food away from home.
By Mary HightowerU of A System Division of Agriculture
(Newsrooms with downloadable art: https://flic.kr/p/2kGELxo and https://flic.kr/p/2kGELJW )
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Personal income rose in January, as did consumer savings and
spending on food outside of the home, according to the February Personal Income and
Outlays Report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Compared to December 2020, personal income increased by 10 percent in January.
RISING — Compared to December 2020, personal income increased by 10 percent in January. (U of A System Division of Agriculture image)
“This is quite a large change from one month to another, and it primarily reflects
the impact of relief payments to households authorized under the Coronavirus Response
and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which went into effect two days after
Christmas,” said economist John Anderson. “Government social benefits increased by
more than 50 percent in January compared to the prior month.”
Anderson said most of that increase was accounted for by the economic impact payments
authorized under that act.
Anderson is an agricultural economist for the University of Arkansas System Division
of Agriculture and head of the Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Department
for the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural Food and Life Sciences. Anderson has
been providing analysis of the impacts of the COVID pandemic on the U.S. economy.
The January payments were the second round of relief monies. The first, under the
March 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act were larger than the
payments made in January. During the first round, personal income rose 12 percent
from the prior month.
Farm proprietor’s income fell by more than 20 percent in January compared to December
“This drop corresponds to the winding down of round 2 of Coronavirus Food Assistance
Program,” Anderson said. “According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that program
has paid out about $13.3 billion to farmers for a variety of products including commercial
row crops, specialty crops, livestock, and poultry. Payments under CFAP2 to Arkansas
farmers has totaled $181 million.”
Consumer spending rose just over 2 percent in January compared to the previous month,
rising in all major categories, the report said.
“Spending on food services, or food away from home, was up by about 6 percent in January
after a couple of months of slight decline; however, it remains well below pre-pandemic
levels,” he said. “It’s not surprising that spending on food for at-home consumption
remains well above pre-pandemic levels.
COVID restrictions on seating and risk-avoidance by consumers, “appear to still be
having a significant effect on consumer spending patterns when it comes to food purchases.
It will be interesting to see how food service spending develops as COVID vaccination
increases over the next couple of months,” Anderson said.
Savings at double-digit rates
With sharply higher incomes and only modestly higher consumer spending, the savings
rate for January was up considerably from the prior month. Anderson said this pattern
has been consistent throughout the pandemic, with support payments largely being banked
“Pre-pandemic, the personal savings rate averaged between 7 and 8 percent,” he said.
“During the pandemic, the savings rate has been as high as 33.7 percent when the first
CARES Act payments went out in April 2020, to as low as 12.5 percent in November.
“In January, with the latest coronavirus relief payments hitting consumers’ accounts,
the savings rate jumped back up to 20.5 percent,” Anderson said.
Find Anderson’s latest analysis: https://bit.ly/38lQbqn
Find other COVID-related economic analyses at https://bit.ly/AR-Ag-Eco-Impacts2020.
To learn more about extension and research programs in Arkansas, visit https://uada.edu/
Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk, @uaex_edu or @ArkAgResearch.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran
status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative
Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.