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U.S. Upper-Income Spending Slips in October

U.S. Upper-Income Spending Slips in October

Overall spending declined slightly nationally but increased in the East

by Lymari Morales

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Upper-income consumers in the U.S. held back on spending in October, reporting a daily spending average of $116, down from $126 in September, and the lowest monthly average since June. The decline came despite the typical bump in spending for Halloween and preparations for superstorm Sandy in the Northeast. The monthly average for October excludes Oct. 29 and Oct. 30 -- two days during which business came to a standstill in many communities in the Northeast as the storm arrived.

U.S. Self-Reported Consumer Spending, by Household Income

Gallup tracks daily how much Americans report spending the prior day, apart from normal household bills or the purchase of a car or home. These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking from Oct. 1-31, excluding Oct. 29-30. While spending fell significantly among upper-income consumers -- defined as those making at least $90,000 per year -- spending among those making less than that held steady, at $62 per day, compared with $61 in September.

As a result, the national picture showed a slight decline, to $72, from $74 in September. This also marks a decline from $77 in August, when spending reached a four-year high. Still, the $72 daily average for October is up slightly from $70 in October 2011 and is the best October reading since 2008, when the daily average fell to $91 after the global economic collapse.


Gallup's weekly average on this metric shows spending declined each week of last month, from $86 per day during the first week to $63 during the last week. It is possible that superstorm Sandy affected spending at the end of the month, including Halloween spending. Even so, spending in the East increased to $77 -- the highest figure among the four regions -- from $73 in September, perhaps due to storm preparations. Spending in the West declined the most, to $71 from $80 in September. Spending in the Midwest remained steady but was the lowest among the regions.

U.S. Self-Reported Consumer Spending "Yesterday," Monthly Averages


The October decline in upper-income consumer spending is a potential problem spot at a time when Gallup is documenting significant improvement on other economic indicators in the U.S., including economic confidence and unemployment. Gallup has often found that consumer spending and job creation are slow to improve even when other metrics show improvement.

Consumer spending is of course critical to economic growth and, in turn, to businesses' ability to hire new employees and create jobs. This metric will also provide a daily gauge of the important holiday spending season ahead. reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in stories. Complete trend data are always available to view and export in the following charts:

Daily: Employment, Economic Confidence, Job Creation, Consumer Spending
Weekly: Employment, Economic Confidence, Job Creation, Consumer Spending

Read more about Gallup's economic measures.

View our economic release schedule.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Oct. 1-31, 2012, excluding Oct. 29-30, with a random sample of 13,450 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

The estimates for average daily spending have a margin of sampling error of ±$4.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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