Early August consumer spending of $62 per day is down from July average of $68
PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' self-reported spending in stores, restaurants, gas stations, and online averaged $62 per day during the week ending Aug. 8. Early August consumer spending trends trail 2009 and will need to surge to match last year's anemic back-to-school results.
Self-Reported Spending Implies Weak Back-to-School Sales
Gallup's consumer spending measure averaged $68 per day in July compared with $67 per day in June. This is consistent with the "mixed" chain store sales reported in July and the consensus expectation of a 0.2% increase in retail sales, excluding auto sales, when the Commerce Department reports on Friday. Retail sales is a broader measure -- it includes the total receipts at stores selling durable and nondurable goods -- than Gallup's spending measure, which is more oriented toward discretionary spending, but the two measures often trend together when auto sales are excluded.
More importantly, Gallup's weekly spending measure for the first week of August shows no improvement over that of the last week in July or that of the same week a year ago. In turn, this suggests that back-to-school sales are unlikely to substantially exceed last year's depressed levels. In fact, this week's comparable of a year ago was a big spending week, making for challenging sales comparables for many retailers this year.
Gallup's Economic Confidence Index showed a slight uptick last week, suggesting that the preliminary estimate from the Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index is also likely to show a modest improvement compared with July. This could provide some cheer for Wall Street and hope for the nation's retailers. However, much of that improvement may have been a result of the stunning performance of the stock market in July. Wednesday's plunge in the equity markets is not likely to help economic confidence or consumer spending in the immediate term.
Importantly, Gallup's Job Creation Index finds more companies hiring during this back-to-school season compared with a year ago. Still, weak sales will make it difficult for retailers or small businesses to turn any temporary jobs added for back-to-school into the permanent jobs the economy so desperately needs right now.
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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For results based on the total sample of national adults averaging 3,000 interviews, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
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