Hard times Oct 25th 2011, 14:33
by The Economist online
How the economic slowdown has changed consumer spending in America
AMERICANS are spending less on clothes and eating out and more on household fuel bills and healthcare, according to data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics. Between 2007 and 2010, average annual consumer spending per unit—defined as a family/shared household or single/financially independent person—fell by 3.1% to $48,109. Average prices over this period have risen by 5.2%, so real consumer spending has fallen by almost 8%. The recession and economic slowdown have reduced buying power and consumers are tightening their belts in many ways, though spending on women’s clothes (and belts) fares slightly better than men’s. There are some positive health effects to be gleaned from the data. Real spending on tobacco products fell by 23%, probably because the price of a nicotine fix has risen by 46% between 2007 and 2010. Similarly, people are spending more on fruit and vegetables (up by 9%) and less on sugar and sweets (down by 6.5%). During the good times of 2003-06 consumer spending rose by 8.2%. In that time, Americans boozed more and bought more cushions: spending on alcohol and household furnishings increased by 19% and 13% respectively. Contrast that with 2007-10 when spending on these items fell by over 16%.