That income gain amounts to $48.1 billion, or $30.2 billion after subtracting taxes and adjusting for inflation, which could provide a much-needed jolt to the still-staggering U.S. economy. (Consumer spending accounts for 70% of economic activity.) The question is, will consumers spend it? That's far from certain: The savings rate also increased last month, to 3.5% of after-tax incomes -- 0.2% higher than it was in September.
One final piece of relative good cheer for retails was provided by the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of consumer sentiment, which this month hit its highest level since June -- 64.1, up from 60.9 in October. But even this reading is well below pre-recession levels, which averaged in the high 80s. And a competing measure, the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, was at minus 50.1 in the week ended November 20, down from minus 50 in the previous week. That's a level last seen during the depths of the recession in 2008.