The Wall Street Journal reported today that U.S. corporations “posted record profits during the second quarter.”
After-tax corporate profits, without inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments, rose 6% from the first quarter to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.840 trillion—after two consecutive quarters of declining profits. Profits last quarter were up 4.5% from a year earlier. Thursday’s report included the first profit estimates, which aren’t adjusted for inflation, for the second quarter. . .
As a share of nominal GDP, corporate profits rose last quarter but fell short of an all-time high.
Profits hit a record 10.7% of GDP in the third quarter of 2013, slipping to 10.5% in the fourth quarter and 10.2% in the first quarter. They totaled 10.6% of GDP in the second quarter.
At the same time, consumer spending declined in July. Why?
On the surface, the weak spending figures appear at odds with accelerating job creation. The last six months saw the strongest stretch of payroll gains since 2006. Underpinning those gains, however, was hiring in low-wage fields such as restaurants, retailers and temporary jobs. At the same time, a historically high number of Americans aren’t participating in the labor force or are working part time but would prefer a full-time job. . .
“Higher wages have been slow to appear and gains in the stock market are not enjoyed by all,” said Chris Christopher, an Global Insight economist. “More widespread income gains are needed to get all consumers back on solid footing.”
In other words, it’s still a tale of two recoveries: the best of times for corporate profits, the worst of times for the vast majority of the population.