That may be because wages have increased a bit recently. But it could also be because lower inflation has enabled Americans to stretch their paychecks further.
Pay picked up a bit in the first three months of the year, according to a third report Tuesday. The Labor Department said wages rose 0.5 percent from January through March. That's better than the 0.3 percent gain in the preceding three months.
Over the past year, pay gains have been modest. Wages and salaries have risen only 1.6 percent in that time.
But inflation has been even weaker. The Fed's preferred inflation measure rose only 1 percent in the 12 months that ended in March. That was down from 1.3 percent year-over-year inflation for both January and February.
"People who have jobs, their dollars go a little bit further than they would otherwise," said Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS, a forecasting firm.
AP Business Writers Alex Veiga in Los Angeles and Marcy Gordon in Washington contributed to this report.
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