PRINCETON, NJ -- U.S. self-reported daily consumer spending increased to $89 in March from $83 in February and $80 in January. This upward trend in consumer spending has occurred despite the end of the payroll tax holiday and the start of the federal sequestration budget cuts.
These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews, conducted by landline and cellphone, with more than 15,000 Americans from March 1-30. The higher-than-usual spending in the first quarter of 2013 coincides with Gallup's decision to include more cellphone-only respondents beginning Jan. 1. It is unclear whether that change could have affected the spending estimates.
Spending Increases Slightly Across Income Groups
Upper-income Americans' spending in March averaged $166 per day, up from $144 in February and $138 in January. Lower- and middle-income consumers' spending also increased slightly, to $75 per day in March from $72 in February and $70 in January. Spending among both income groups in March matches or exceeds their March highs of the past five years.
Lower- and middle-income weekly spending declined slightly during the week ending March 24 but recovered during the week ending March 31. Although weekly upper-income spending tends to be more volatile due to smaller sample sizes, the data indicate that upper-income spending has declined steadily since the week ending March 3.
Consumers' self-reported spending increased modestly throughout the first quarter of 2013. This uptick took place despite the end of the payroll tax holiday, high gas prices for this time of year, and federal budget sequestration cuts. Evidently, consumers have been willing to maintain their discretionary spending on the items Gallup measures daily, including gas at the pump and purchases on the Internet.
Whether consumers will be able to continue spending on these items given the current employment situation remains unclear. Consumers' willingness to buy autos and homes -- which are not included in Gallup's spending measure -- is a greater uncertainty unless the jobs situation turns more positive in the near term.
Regardless, consumer spending remains key to economic growth. While the modest first quarter spending increase is a hopeful sign, it is not clear that this trend will continue in the months ahead.
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:
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Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup Daily tracking survey March 1-30, 2013, with a random sample of 15,327 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.
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% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone 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.
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.