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Average US consumer spending in September was higher than in previous years, an encouraging sign as the holiday season approaches, though this year’s average still remains significantly behind 2008’s figure, per Gallup data released in October. This year’s average self-reported daily spending was $74, up from $65 in September of last year and $59 the year before that, but far below 2008’s $99. Driving the growth this year was spending by upper-income consumers, who averaged daily outlay of $126, up from $108 last year. Low and middle-income consumers had less of a year-over-year bump, with average “yesterday” spending increasing by just $2, to $61. That’s more than 25% less than 2008’s figure of $85.

Spending Drops M-O-M

Although the year-over-year increase is a good sign, September’s average daily spend of $74 is actually a step back from August’s $77, which was the highest level in close to 4 years. Lower- and higher-income consumers both tightened the reins in September. While this result seems discouraging on the surface, Gallup notes that average daily spending also declined between August and September in both 2010 and 2011.

Monthly Drop Doesn’t Match Increase in Confidence

The month-over-month drop in average spending doesn’t correlate with levels of consumer confidence, though. Earlier in October, Gallup reported that its Economic Confidence Index averaged -19 in September, a marked improvement from -27 in August. Other than May’s reading of -17, September’s result was the highest since the start of Gallup Daily tracking in 2008.

New research from GfK released in October also shows strong confidence in the economy, with 49% of adults surveyed believing the economy will get better over the next 12 months, compared to just 15% who believe it will get worse. Still, roughly 1 in 5 adults are skeptical that they’ll benefit personally from this economic prosperity.

About the Data: The Gallup results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Sept. 1-30, 2012, with a random sample of 14,390 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.

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