U.S. Spending Returns to More Typical Levels in August
Friday, September 9th, 2016
Americans' daily self-reports of spending averaged $91 in August, down from $100 in July, which was the highest average for any month since July 2008. Last month's average is in line with the $89 reported in August 2015, but slightly below the averages for the same month in 2013 ($95) and 2014 ($94).
These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted throughout August. Gallup asks Americans each night to report how much they spent "yesterday," excluding normal household bills and major purchases such as a home or car. The measure gives an indication of discretionary spending.
Since December 2012, Americans' daily spending estimates have consistently averaged $80 or higher in all but one month. By contrast, in the four years prior, which included part of the Great Recession and periods of high unemployment that ensued, monthly spending averages were as low as $58 and never above $77.
The spending average for August is on par with the average of $90 for 2016 so far. In Gallup's nearly nine-year trend, August has generally not been a standout month for spending, ranking neither among the highest nor the lowest spending months in most years.
Looking forward, Americans typically report less spending on average in September than in August, including each year since 2010. On this basis, it's not likely spending will rise in the coming month.
Higher-Earning Americans' Spending Average Slid Last Month
Both higher- and lower-earning Americans reported lower spending on average in August than in July. The drop was more pronounced among Americans whose annual household incomes are $90,000 or higher, whose self-reported daily spending average fell $21, to $140. This earning group consistently reports spending a lot more on average than lower-income Americans, and its spending estimates tend to vary more over time.
Spending dropped less in August among Americans whose annual household incomes are lower than $90,000. Spending among this group dropped only $3 to an average of $72. Monthly averages for lower-earning Americans have been much steadier over time compared with those who earn $90,000 or more annually.
After reporting higher-than-usual discretionary spending in July, Americans pulled back slightly to more typical levels in August. The average for spending in August is still on par with the 2016 average so far, and remains healthy compared with sub-$80 figures from 2009 to 2012.
The dip in spending does, however, come amid a slowing of spending in manufacturing and construction industries. But given Americans' improved confidence in the U.S. economy last month, it doesn't appear that their return to normal spending is a reaction to larger economic forces.