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Americans have been earning and saving more than we realized

Getting paid
Getting paid
401(k) 2012

The most important thing to know about GDP statistics is that counting all economic activity in the country is really hard, so these numbers get revised a lot. Today we not only got an initial estimate of the second quarter of 2014 and a revision of the Q1 estimate, we got the "annual revisions" of the GDP back catalogue. These are important to look at, because they sometimes alter narratives that were established years ago and have lodged in the public mind.

The big takeaways from the revisions are this — American households' incomes were somewhat better off in 2011, 2012, and 2013 than we thought. They were also saving more than we thought. Conversely, American corporations were somewhat less profitable than we thought.

Corporate profits

The big news here was a that 2011 corporate profits were revised down $61.1 billion. Profits for 2012 were revised up by $13.3 billion and for 2012 by $4.8 billion but the overall impression is of a less-profitable corporate sector.

Personal income

Personal income was revised up $10.7 billion for 2011, $143.9 billion for 2012, and $32.2 billion for 2013. American households have been doing better than we thought.

Household savings

So where did that extra income go? Savings. The savings rate (the share of disposable personal income that was saved) was revised up 0.3 percentage points in 2011, 1.6 percentage points in 2012, and 0.4 percentage points in 2013. Those aren't enormous changes, but they show that Americans have continued to be cautious with their money after the collapse of the credit bubble.