.S. consumers set nine-year high for December spending according to Gallup's consumer spending measure. The $105 daily average for the month tops December 2015's $99 and is the highest for any month since $114 in May 2008. The self-reported daily average of $105 is a $7 increase from $98 in November and is $6 higher than $99 last December.
December marks the third consecutive month and the fifth month in 2016 (March and April) that the daily spending average has matched or exceeded the highest average for that month in Gallup's trend. The $92 overall average for 2016 is still slightly below 2008's average of $96, but higher than any year since.
Affluent Americans' purchases drove last month's rise in spending. Households with annual incomes of $90,000 or more increased their daily spending from an average of $146 in November to $170 in December, while those earning less than $90,000 averaged $82 in both months. Overall, spending increased slightly more from the start of the year to the end in lower-income households -- a 30 percent increase from January's average to December's in households with incomes below $90,000, compared with a 27 percent increase in households with incomes of $90,000 or more.
Self-reported consumer spending is a new behavioral economics measure based on the individual reports of a random sample of Americans. The focus is on consumer discretionary spending, including on basics such as gas purchases at the pump and more optional impulse purchases online or in stores. Excluded are routine spending, including the consumer's monthly bills, and big purchase items such as automobiles and housing.
Gallup's self-reported Consumer Spending measure is a real-time indicator of Americans' discretionary spending. The behavioral characteristics of this new measure provide early and unique insights into how consumer spending is responding to various changes in the business environment.
Further, the spending measure provides estimates on a continuing basis, giving an early read on what the government eventually reports for retail sales roughly two weeks after the close of each month. Overall, Gallup's behavioral-based spending measure allows business and investment decisions to be based on essentially real-time consumer spending information.