Consumer Spending in U.S. Continues Rising in April to $91

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The FINANCIAL — Americans’ daily self-reports of spending averaged $91 in April. This is up from $86 in March, although down from several monthly averages in 2014. Still, it is the highest April average since Gallup Daily tracking began in 2008.

Each day, Gallup asks Americans to estimate the total amount they spent “yesterday” in restaurants, gas stations, stores or online — not counting home, vehicle or other major purchases, or normal monthly bills — to provide an indication of Americans’ discretionary spending. The April 2015 average is based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with 14,712 U.S. adults.

Spending in April is up $5 from the March average and is higher than the $88 daily average for last April. This is on top of a fairly strong March increase of $4, a potentially positive sign for the economy. The April increase is the largest month-to-month increase since November 2014.

Furthermore, spending has historically increased in the spring, particularly in May. The increase this April is a departure from the past few years, when April spending was similar to March spending. Still, from a broader perspective, the trend over the past two years is mixed, without the clear upward trajectory measured in 2012 and 2013.

Spending Continues to Increase Slightly Across Income Groups

Average reported spending increased slightly in April among middle- and lower-income Americans, reaching $77 among this group with annual household incomes that are less than $90,000. Spending increased more sharply among the smaller number of upper-income Americans, those with household incomes of $90,000 or more a year, jumping $16 to $160 in April.

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Spending among Americans in both income groups is slightly higher than in April 2014, but failed to eclipse May 2014 spending, when the average among all Americans reached a six-year high.

Implications

While Americans were generally more negative about the economy in April than they were earlier in 2015, their spending increased last month. Spending in February was significantly lower than in the same month in 2014, but the successive increases over the past two months pushed spending in April higher than in April 2014. Month-over-month spending has historically increased in May, perhaps because the warmer weather encourages Americans to spend more time outside and to travel. This year’s stronger spending in March and April may provide evidence that the flat GDP the government reported for the first quarter of 2015 was more of a temporary, weather-related situation than a sign of trouble for the economy.

 

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