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AP

American consumers aren't spending with the gusto you'd expect, what with U.S. unemployment plumbing a 16-year low of 4.3%, wages ticking up, and the stock market hitting record highs, Barron's columnist Kopin Tan writes in "The Surprising Threat to the American Economy":

The problem: "Real U.S. personal spending is growing at about 2.6% year over year, when it should be closer to 4%, given the much-ballyhooed global recovery."

The reason: "Our attitude toward spending and debt has changed, as well, and the bursting of the housing bubble has deflated our love of conspicuous consumption. Families are saving more, despite being penalized for saving by zero interest rates."

Key stat 1: "Thanks to the levitating stock market and recovering home prices, household net worth is 37% higher than it was at the housing-bubble peak ... with 30% of our net worth now tied to stocks and mutual funds."

Key stat 2: "The share of national spending eaten up by three items — health care, housing, and education — has ballooned from 25% in 1980 to more than 36% by 2015."

The bottom line: "A stock market trading at all-time highs carries with it the burden of great expectations, but investors might be looking to the burgeoning middle class overseas to pick up the spending slack and goose the global economy. American consumers have done their fair share, and they deserve a break."

Go deeper

U.S. grants temporary protected status to thousands of Venezuelans

Venezuelan citizens participate in the vote for the popular consultation in December 2020, as part of a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Doral, Florida. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP

Venezuelans living in the United States will be eligible to receive temporary protected status for 18 months, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have fled to the U.S. amid economic, political and social turmoil back home. Former President Trump, on his last full day in office, granted some protections to Venezuelans through the U.S. Deferred Enforced Departure program, but advocates and lawmakers said the move didn't go far enough.

"She-cession" threatens economic recovery

Illustration: Sarah Grillo

Decades of the slow economic progress women made catching up to men evaporated in just one year.

Why it matters: As quickly as those gains were erased, it could take much, much longer for them to return — a warning Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen issued today.