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In the U.S., Consumer Spending Drops Slightly in September
Economy

In the U.S., Consumer Spending Drops Slightly in September

Spending pullbacks common in September

by Rebecca Riffkin

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' daily self-reports of spending dropped to an average of $87 in September, down from $94 in July and August. However, spending in September this year was slightly higher than the $84 average for September last year.

Self-Reported U.S. Consumer Daily Spending -- January 2008-September 2014

These findings are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with more than 14,000 Americans throughout September. The poll asks Americans to report the total amount they spent "yesterday" in stores, gas stations, restaurants, or online -- not counting home and vehicle purchases, or normal monthly bills -- and gives an indication of their discretionary spending.

The drop in spending Gallup found in September is not unusual. Since 2010, spending has dropped each year between August and September, although the size of the drop has varied. The consistent declines may be the result of increased spending in August, thanks to back-to-school purchases and summer vacations.

September's $7 drop in average spending is comparable with past August-to-September drops. Last year, the drop was $11, from $95 in August to $84 in September.

Monthly averages in self-reported spending so far in 2014 have generally exceeded average spending for the corresponding month in 2013, and especially so for 2009 to 2012, when averages were generally in the $60 to $70 range. However, this year's monthly averages are still lower than the nearly $100 averages seen in 2008.

Spending Among Upper-Income Americans Continues to Drop

In September, daily self-reports of spending among upper-income Americans (those with annual household incomes of $90,000 a year or more) fell for the second month in a row, to average $140 a day -- well below the 12-month high of $190 in July, and near February's 12-month low of $135.

Consumer Spending by Income, August 2013-September 2014

Spending among middle- and lower-income Americans -- which tends to be much more stable -- dropped only slightly, from $80 in August to an average of $77 in September. Reported spending among this group in the past 12 months has fallen into the narrow range of $84 (in December 2013) to $69 (in January 2014).

Implications

While Americans' average self-reported daily spending dropped in September, decreases from August to September are common, and average September spending this year exceeded September spending last year. With consumer spending a major driver of the U.S. economy, changes in average spending can reflect how the economy is doing.

Spending has generally increased since 2010, during the aftermath of the recession. And, compared with September 2013, spending increased this September. However, the consecutive two-month drop in spending among upper-income Americans could be a troubling sign, as this group generally has higher discretionary spending than middle- and lower-income Americans.

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 and 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 for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 1-30, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 14,687 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, the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error for the spending mean is ±$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% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone 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, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. 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.

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