UK families feeling flush ahead of Spring

UK families are feeling more flush about their cash according to new figures from supermarket Asda.
Its Income Tracker for March found that families were £12 per week better off than they were in the same period last year. That is an increase of 6.3% and means that discretionary income reached £198 per week for the average household.
March also marked the 17th consecutive month that saw spending power remain above £10.
However, Asda said that essential item inflation reached 0.1%, the first time the measure has stood above zero since the end of 2014 and suggesting that prices of household goods may be on the rise.
In addition, consumer price inflation also saw an increase of 0.2%, reaching 0.5%, due to the seasonal impact of an early Easter on air and travel fares.
There were rising prices across clothing and footwear up 1.4%, as well as dining out in restaurants and cafés, up 1.9%. However, notable drops were seen in the cost of vehicle fuel down 9.2% and electricity and gas down 3.7% compared with the same time a year ago, helping to keep inflation generally low.
Food and drink prices were down 2.7%.
The Income Tracker also found that the employment rate stood steady at 74.1%, while regular earnings growth remained at 2.2%.
“Taking a view of employment and wage growth across the regions, the latest data also revealed that while the UK as a whole saw income growth slow between the end of last year and the first few months of 2016, not all regions experienced the same drag in household incomes,” Asda said. “The East of England, Wales and the West Midlands were boosted by falling rates of unemployment, and also saw incomes rise at the fastest rate. “
The East of England experienced the biggest increase in disposable income, with this rising by £19 a week with London seeing spending power rise slightly, up £14 on the same period last year.
The North East saw the slowest growth in gross income in the last quarter, associated with a rise in unemployment driven by sluggish conditions in the local manufacturing sector
Wales was the second best performing region with spending power increasing by £14 compared to the last quarter. Northern Ireland saw its spending power reach a milestone of £100 per week in the last quarter
An Asda spokesperson said: “The sustained rise in discretionary income gives family finances a welcome boost ahead of the summer months. While inflation has slightly increased in recent months, low overall interest rates continue to be good news for consumers. The outlook remains cautiously positive, despite a slow-down in wage growth across the country as a whole, which really can be seen on a regional level where we are already noticing an increase in household income. This represents a number of positive indicators which should give British families confidence for the coming months.”
Sam Alderson, Economist, Cebr, said: “The low levels of essential item inflation and growing discretionary incomes should continue to provide support to both consumer spending and overall economic growth.”