The latest monthly report from the US Commerce Department shows personal incomes and consumer spending rising during March, respectively by 0.5 percent and 0.3% - the latter hard on the heels of an 0.2% rise in February. Optimists are interpreting this as a slowdown in the speed-up of the slowdown.

Separately, the silver lining brightened marginally with the latest data from the National Association of Purchasing Management, whose monthly index of regional manufacturing rose to 38.9 in April from a nineteen-year low of 35 in March. But the index remains well below 50, the threshold between growth and decline.

In some areas, the picture remains gloomy: the employment index in the purchasing report fell to its lowest since October 1980; and although the spending report reflects increased demand for services, it registers no change for non-durable items like clothing and food and a decline in cars, appliances and other durables.

But whether the figures go up or go down, one constant remains: Americans spend more than they earn.

News source: New York Times