The Commerce Department reports consumer spending was up four-tenths of a percent in March, but higher prices for food, gas and other things accounted for most of the increase.
Once inflation was removed, spending edged up a much slower 0.1
percent. That represents the fourth straight lackluster performance
as consumers have been battered by record gasoline prices, a deep
slump in housing and rising job layoffs.
The number of newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits soared last week.
The Labor Department reports that claims for unemployment benefits rose by 35,000 to 380,000. Private economists had expected claims would rise by a smaller 18,000.
Also today, the private trade group Thomson Financial says manufacturing activity was flat in April.
And construction spending dropped sharply in March, with housing activity plunging by the largest amount on record.