The Consumer Spending Mirage: [A] broad decline in consumer spending, which so far has been masked by a quirk in the government's statistics. Combine that with a rapidly unraveling job market, high energy prices, and the continuing credit crunch, and you have the recipe for a drop in consumer stocks.... Right now it's looking like the recession started in November, 2007. That's when private-sector employment peaked, according to the latest job report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since then, the private sector has shed 300,000 jobs, with the cuts concentrated in construction, manufacturing, retail trade, and temp services.
Despite those job losses, government statistics show that consumer spending, although slowing, is at an all-time high when adjusted for inflation.... But a closer look at the numbers shows that the consumer spending boom may already have come to an end.... What the government calls "personal consumption" is actually a grab bag... includes about $1.8 trillion in outlays by Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance providers... "imputed" categories... $1.1 trillion for "rent" that homeowners theoretically pay to themselves to live in their own homes, and $240 billion for "services furnished without payment by financial intermediaries"--in other words, the value of services like no-fee checking accounts.
it turns out that the rest of personal spending has actually fallen since November, adjusted for inflation. The decline is pretty much across the board.... Nevada gambling revenues are down by 4% over the past year.... Purchases of jewelry and watches are off 3.9% since November...