WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. self-reported consumer spending in January held close to December's four-year high that spanned the holiday season. The $80 daily spending average for January is essentially the same as the $83 for December; it is well above the $63 of January a year ago, as well as every January since 2009.
The $80 average is the best monthly spending average found in any month other than November or December since the $91 average of October 2008. Until the past holiday spending season, monthly averages since end of the U.S. recession have generally hovered in the $60 to $77 range.
The higher-than-usual January average could mean that Americans are breaking out of the "new normal" spending pattern that followed the recession. Spending trended higher in 2012, with monthly averages of at least $70 since March. Prior to that, monthly spending averages were $70 or higher only seven times in 38 months since January 2009.
The January 2013 spending estimate coincides with Gallup's decision to include more cellphone-only respondents in the U.S. beginning Jan. 1. It is unclear whether that change could have affected the January spending estimate.
Consumers making less than $90,000 per year reported spending $70 on average, compared with $67 in December. Their higher-income counterparts reported spending $138 on average, compared with $155 in December. Both January averages are significantly higher than comparable prior January averages since 2008.
Gallup's self-reported consumer spending measure reveals encouraging signs in January, with consumers reporting daily spending averages similar to the strong post-recession showing of December. It is unclear whether consumers are acting on their increasing confidence in the economy, or whether it is a reflection of higher prices for things Americans need to buy. Still, if spending figures hold in these higher ranges in the coming months, it is surely a positive sign for the economy.
Gallup.com reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in Gallup.com 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
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Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup Daily tracking survey Jan. 1-31, 2013, with a random sample of 14,763 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
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 of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cell phone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phones 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 to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
Gallup increased the proportion of cell-phone only respondents in the sample in January 2008, which could affect comparisons to previous years.
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 www.gallup.com.