Spending was up - and then what happened?

Well, consumers stopped spending in April - or at least slowed things down. The numbers were essentially flat last month, coming after a 0.6 percent increase in March, according to the Commerce Department. Now be careful: These super-macro snapshots are sometimes hard to gauge - and remember, they’re national figures, and patterns can vary in different parts of the country. But the consumer numbers were the weakest since last September, which at the very least tells you that the spending splurges from March slowed down considerably. It’s not a huge surprise. The research firm Bundle.com found that L.A. households spent almost $3,600 in March, compared with a little over $3,000 for the same period a year earlier. The year-earlier comparisons are pretty easy considering that nobody was spending any money in March 2009. Add to that a dash of optimism, especially among the more affluent households. Here's what Bundle said about March:

"The causes may well be psychological -- one reason economists think it's unlikely to last. At the beginning of the year, consumers gradually came around to the idea that, no matter how bad things were, they weren't likely to get much worse. The biggest of the layoffs and pay cuts seemed to be over. Months of abstinence had created small pockets of savings. Consumers felt comfortable again, explained Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Economy.com, and there was stuff they wanted to buy. We were hungry, and so we ate."

The lagging April numbers are not horrible, but they're not wonderful either. People continue to be nervous - about everything. In case you’re wondering, here’s what happened in L.A. in March:

March 2010
--Shopping $831
--Food & drink $760
--Health & family $750
--House & home $557
--Getting around $426
--Travel & leisure $270
Total household spending $3,594

March 2009
--Shopping $669
--Food & drink $660
--Health & family $635
--House & home $476
--Getting around $403
--Travel & leisure $228
Total household spending $3,071

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