Consumers’ spending on goods and services rose 0.3 percent in August, the Commerce Department said on Friday. That was up from a 0.2 percent gain in July.
Income rose 0.4 percent in August, the best gain since February and up from a 0.2 percent July increase. Private wages and salaries rose 0.5 percent, while government wages and salaries rose 0.2 percent.
The government figures would have been higher if not for forced federal furloughs that reduced wages and salaries by $7.3 billion.
Consumer spending drives 70 percent of economic activity. Many analysts say the increases are not enough to accelerate economic growth in the third quarter from the 2.5 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter.
“With more money coming in, consumers spent a little, just a little, more freely,” said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.
Americans grew more pessimistic this month about the economy, their own finances and government budget policies, according to a survey of consumer confidence released Friday.
The University of Michigan says its final reading of consumer sentiment dropped to 77.5 in September from 82.1 in August. It was the second straight decline after confidence reached a six-year high of 85.1 in July.
Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, said the economy has been growing at an annual rate of 2 to 2.5 percent in the July-September quarter. Still, the pickup in August spending could signal stronger growth in the final three months of the year.
But other economists were less hopeful. Peter Newland, an economist at Barclays, said that the modest increase did not change the bank’s forecast for growth, at a 1.7 percent rate.
There are some signs that consumers may be better positioned to step up spending soon.
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits has sunk to its lowest point in six years because few companies are laying anyone off anymore. That has led some economists to predict that employers added 200,000 jobs or more jobs in September, the most since February.