Americans' self-reported spending in stores, restaurants, gas stations, and online averaged $59 per day during the first four weeks of September. Consumer spending is down from August ($63) and July ($68), and now matches its lowest level of 2010. Current spending is lower than that of a year ago and far below spending in September 2008, at the start of the financial collapse.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan noted earlier this year that the U.S. economy seemed to hit a wall in June. Since that point, Gallup and other economic data have shown the economy slowing, and economists have lowered their forecasts for the second half of 2010.
Over the past couple of weeks in particular, Gallup's consumer spending measure shows another dropoff -- returning to the February lows for the year, and falling below year-ago "new normal" levels. At the same time, Gallup's underemployment measure shows more people losing their jobs in recent weeks -- with unemployment hitting 10% for the 30 days ending Sept. 27 and Sept. 28. Economic confidence is also running at its low point for 2010.
It may be that today's unusually high economic uncertainty has put Americans in a wait-and-see mode. Consumers and small business owners may simply be pulling back until the economic landscape is clearer.
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