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Increased Consumer Spending Is Because of Higher Wages, Not Boosted Savings

Image: Increased Consumer Spending Is Because of Higher Wages, Not Boosted Savings

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Friday, 15 Jan 2016 07:29 AM Current | Bio | Archive


Over the last couple of years, economists from Wall Street, to the Federal Reserve, to the White House have repeatedly made the following statement: “Falling oil prices are great for the consumer as it gives them more money to spend.”

I have written many times over the past couple of years, as oil prices fell, that such was not actually the case. To wit:

“The argument is that lower oil prices lead to lower gasoline prices that give consumers more money to spend. The argument seems to be entirely logical since we know that roughly 80% of households in America effectively live paycheck-to-paycheck meaning they will spend, rather than save, any extra disposable income.

The problem is that the economy is a ZERO-SUM game and gasoline prices are an excellent example of the mainstream fallacy of lower oil prices.

Example:
  • Gasoline Prices Fall By $1.00 Per Gallon
  • Consumer Fills Up A 16 Gallon Tank Saving $16 (+16)
  • Gas Station Revenue Falls By $16 For The Transaction (-16)
  • End Economic Result = $0
Now, the argument is that the $16 saved by the consumer will be spent elsewhere. This is the equivalent of ‘rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.'”

Increased consumer spending is a function of increases in INCOME, not SAVINGS.

Consumers only have a finite amount of money to spend and whatever “savings” there may be at the pump, it gets quickly absorbed by rising costs of living – like health care.

Most importantly, the biggest reason that falling oil prices are a drag on economic growth, as opposed to the incremental “savings” to consumers, is the decline in output by energy-related sectors.

Oil and gas production makes up a hefty chunk of the “mining and manufacturing” component of the employment rolls. Since 2000, when the oil price boom gained traction,

Texas comprised more than 40% of all jobs in the country according to first quarter data from the Dallas Federal Reserve.

The obvious ramification of the plunge in oil prices is eventual loss of revenue leads to cuts in production, declines in capital expenditure plans (which comprises almost 1/4th of all CapEx expenditures in the S&P 500), freezes and/or reductions in employment, and declines in revenue and profitability.

The issue of job loss is critically important. Since the financial crisis the bulk of the jobs “created” have been in lower wage paying areas such as retail, healthcare and other service sectors of the economy. Conversely, the jobs created within the energy space are some of the highest wage paying opportunities available in engineering, technology, accounting, legal, etc. In fact, each job created in energy-related areas has had a “ripple effect” of creating 2.8 jobs elsewhere in the economy from piping to coatings, trucking and transportation, restaurants and retail.

Simply put, lower oil and gasoline prices may have a bigger detraction on the economy than the “savings” provided to consumers.

Why do I remind you of this basic economic reality – because it only took the Federal Reserve 18-months to figure it out. In a recent speech San Fran Fed president John Williams actually admitted the truth.

 “The Fed got it wrong when it predicted a drop in oil prices would be a big boon for the economy. It turned out the world had changed; the US has a lot of jobs connected to the oil industry.”

Lance Roberts is a chief portfolio strategist and economist for Clarity Financial. To read more of his commentary, CLICK HERE NOW.

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LanceRoberts
Over the last couple of years, economists from Wall Street, to the Federal Reserve, to the White House have repeatedly made the following statement: "Falling oil prices are great for the consumer as it gives them more money to spend." I have written many times over the past...
gasoline, economy, wages, savings
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2016-29-15
Friday, 15 Jan 2016 07:29 AM
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