Faced with a weak economy, Americans are saving much more than they did just a few years ago, despite dismal unemployment numbers. The savings rate in October reached 4.4 percent, up from 0.8 percent in April 2008; some economists say the rate could eventually return to 1990 levels of 7 or 8 percent. The new national thriftiness is a mixed blessing, however. Consumers need to repair their balance sheets ravaged by recent out-of-hand borrowing and spending, and banks will benefit. But in the near term, a decrease in spending will slow the economic recovery—businesses that depend on consumer spending will struggle, and unemployment will remain high.
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