The FINANCIAL -- Americans' daily self-reports of spending averaged $98 in November, up from $93 in October. The latest figure exceeds the $92 average recorded in the same month a year ago and is the highest for any November since Gallup began tracking consumer spending in 2008.
These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted Nov. 1-29. Gallup asks Americans each night to report how much they spent "yesterday," excluding normal household bills and major purchases such as a home or car. The measure gives an indication of discretionary spending.
The highest monthly averages on this self-reported spending measure came in the early months of 2008. Since the recession ended, self-reported spending has gradually increased. In several months recently, including November, the monthly average has been in the high $90 range, reaching $100 in July, according to Gallup.
The November figure provides a strong springboard for the usual surge in holiday spending in December. Gallup has recorded an increase in December spending over November's figure in every year since 2008, with an average increase of $6.
The $5 increase in November spending compared with October is larger than usual. In some years, spending between these two months has stayed flat or even dipped. Generally, average daily spending rises $1 to $3. One exception was 2014 when spending increased $6 between October and November.
November Increase Driven by Middle- and Lower-Income Families
Spending among lower- and middle-income families is up relatively sharply on both a monthly (up $7) and year-over-year (up $5) basis. Americans with an annual household income of less than $90,000 spent an average of $82 per day in November, the highest for this group in nearly two years.
By contrast, spending among upper-income Americans -- those with an annual household income of $90,000 or more -- averaged $146 in November, similar to October's $143 but higher than the average for November of last year ($137).
U.S. Department of Commerce data show that consumer spending improved markedly in recent months, including a combined 4.3% increase in year-over-year sales in September and October. Now Gallup's data indicate that trend may have continued into November, offering a positive sign for holiday retailers.
Americans have matched or exceeded their previous monthly spending average not only this month but also five other months this year. If this trend continues, next year's monthly spending averages could rival the record highs seen in 2008.