Daily consumer spending increased to $89 in March from $83 in February and $80 in January according to the results of Gallup Daily tracking interviews. The upward trend has occurred despite an end to the payroll tax holiday and the start of the federal sequestration budget cuts.
Lower- and middle-income weekly spending declined slightly during the week ending March 24 but recovered during the week ending March 31. While weekly upper-income spending tends to be more volatile due to smaller sample sizes, the data indicate that upper-income spending has declined steadily since the week ending March 3.
Upper-income Americans' spending in March averaged $166 per day, up from $144 in February and $138 in January. Lower- and middle-income consumers' spending also increased slightly, to $75 per day in March from $72 in February and $70 in January. Spending among both income groups in March matches or exceeds their March highs of the past five years.
The poll was conducted by landline and cellphone, with more than 15,000 Americans, from March 1-30. The higher-than-usual spending in the first quarter coincides with Gallup's decision to include more cellphone-only respondents beginning Jan. 1. It is unclear whether that change could have affected the spending estimates.
Whether consumers will be able to keep spending given the employment picture is unclear. Consumers' willingness to buy autos and homes, which are not included in Gallup's spending measure, is a greater uncertainty unless the jobs situation turns more positive in the near term.