skip to main content
U.S. Consumer Spending Highest for Any September Since 2008

U.S. Consumer Spending Highest for Any September Since 2008

by Jim Norman
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • September spending averages $91 a day, identical to August
  • Spending had dropped from August to September in last six years
  • Spending typically rises from September to October

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' daily self-reports of spending averaged $91 in September, unchanged from August, but the highest average for the month since 2008. The stability in September comes after wide swings during the summer months -- when spending rose from June's $88 average to an eight-year high of $100 in July, then fell to $91 in August.

Trend: Monthly Averages of Reported Amount Americans Spent "Yesterday"

Results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted throughout September. Gallup asks Americans each night to report how much they spent "yesterday," excluding normal household bills and major purchases such as a home or car. The measure gives an indication of discretionary spending.

Since December 2012, Americans' daily spending estimates have consistently averaged $80 or higher in all but one month. By contrast, in the four years prior, which included part of the Great Recession and periods of high unemployment that ensued, monthly spending averages were as low as $58 and never above $77.

Spending Avoids Usual September Slump

Although spending in the U.S. had been lower in September than in August in each of the past six years, it held steady this year. In all but one of those years it subsequently rose in October. The exception was 2012, when the average dropped in both September and October. Last year, September's average of $88 was only a dollar lower than August's $89.

Monthly Consumer Spending Averages, 2008-2016
August September October
$ $ $
2008 97 99 91
2009 65 66 66
2010 63 59 63
2011 68 65 70
2012 77 74 72
2013 95 84 88
2014 94 87 89
2015 89 88 92
2016 91 91
Gallup Daily tracking

Bottom Line

American consumers this year avoided the September slump in spending typically seen in recent years. That has helped keep average spending for the first nine months of 2016 the highest for any year since 2008. Spending patterns of the past decade for the months of October, November and December suggest that spending will increase even further.

However, there are some reasons to believe spending might not follow the normal pattern this year. While the relatively high level of September spending could indicate that Americans stayed in a buying mood even after the end of summer vacations and back-to-school shopping, it could also mean that the customary September-to-October rise in spending has already taken place. And although presidential elections generally do not affect consumer spending, Americans' negative views about the two major-party candidates could affect consumer confidence and spending in ways not seen in 2008 or 2012.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 1-30, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 14,743 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error for the spending mean is ±$5 at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030