• Pure Speculation

New threat to the economy: Americans are saving like it's the 1980s

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

  • New York (CNN Business)

  • Original Article by Matt Egan May 12, 2020 CNN.com



Americans are slashing their spending, hoarding cash and shrinking their credit card debt as they fear their jobs could disappear during the coronavirus pandemic.


US credit card debt suddenly reversed course in March and fell by the largest percentage in more than 30 years. At the same time, savings rates climbed to levels unseen since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.


"Consumers are very cautious," said Russell Price, chief economist at Ameriprise Financial. "We're right in the middle of the storm."

Economy of Caution


The dramatic shifts in consumer behavior reflect the unprecedented turmoil in the US economy caused by the pandemic. Although caution is a logical response to that uncertainty, hunkering down also poses a risk to the recovery in an economy dominated by consumer spending. A so-called V-shaped recovery can't happen if consumers are sitting on the sidelines.


More than 33 million Americans have filed for initial unemployment claims since mid-March, and economists warn the jobs market won't return to pre-crisis levels for years.

"Consumers are very cautious," said Russell Price, chief economist at Ameriprise Financial. "We're right in the middle of the storm."

The unemployment rate soared to 14.7% in April — the most severe unemployment crisis since the Great Depression — and Americans are bracing for more challenging times ahead.

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