August 7, 2014

Florida lags nation in consumer spending

Consumer spending in Florida was among the lowest in the nation in 2012, according to a new national report released Thursday.

North Dakotans, enriched by an oil boom, stepped up their spending at triple the national pace in the three years that followed the Great Recession. In Nevada, smacked hard by the housing bust, consumers barely increased their spending.

Americans spend the most, per person, on housing in Washington, D.C., and the least in West Virginia.

In Florida, consumer spending has surpassed the pre-recession high, but the state lags behind most other states in spending growth, the report revealed.

Those and other figures emerged Thursday from a new annual report from the government that for the first time reveals consumer spending on a state-by-state basis. The numbers point to substantial shifts in the economy since the recession ended.

Spending jumped 28 percent in North Dakota, the largest gain nationwide, from 2009 through 2012, the latest year for which figures are available. It surged nearly 16 percent in Oklahoma. The next-largest increases were in South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia.

The changes in spending patterns in North Dakota have been particularly dramatic. Its per-capita spending in 2007, before the recession began, was $32,780. That ranked it 24th among states. By 2012, North Dakota’s per-capita spending was $44,029, fourth-highest nationwide. (The figures aren’t adjusted for inflation.)

North Dakota has boomed in large part because of a breakthrough drilling technique, known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” that has unlocked vast oil and gas reserves. The state’s per-person income soared 37.2 percent, before inflation, from 2009 through 2012, according to a separate report released this year. That’s by far the most for any state. North Dakota’s unemployment rate was a barely visible 2.7 percent in June, the lowest in the nation.

By contrast, spending eked out a scant 3.5 percent increase in Nevada, the weakest for any state and far below the 10.7 percent national average. Arizona’s 6.2 percent increase was next-weakest, followed by Hawaii’s, Florida’s and Utah’s.

In Florida, per capita consumer spending in 2012 grew 3.1 percent over the previous year. That was slightly weaker than the 3.3 percent growth in consumer spending by the entire nation in 2012, the most recent year figures are available.

Each Floridian, on average, spent $33,755 on consumer goods and services in 2012, compared to $35,498 for the nation. Of that amount, almost $6,000 was spent on housing and more than $5,600 was spent on health care. The average Floridian spent $2,900 on food and more than $1,000 on gasoline.

The figures released Thursday cover consumer spending for all states from 1997 to 2012, and they provide a snapshot of how consumer spending by Floridians jumped by leaps and bounds mid-decade before crashing down by the end of the decade.

In 2005, total consumer spending increased by 10.5 percent from the previous year in Florida, surpassed only by Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Idaho. By 2009, total consumer spending had contracted 2.8 percent from the previous year. Only Nevada, California, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming experienced larger contractions in year-to-year consumer spending.

Florida's per capita consumer spending followed a similar trajectory, going from a pre-recession high of $32,899 in 2007 to a post-recession low of $31,743 in 2010.

Since the end of the recession in 2009, consumer spending in Florida has grown only 7.6 percent.

In all, Floridians spent more than $650 million on consumer goods and services in 2012, accounting for roughly 6 percent of the nation's consumer spending. That figure closely tracks the ratio of Florida's population of 19.5 million residents to the United States' population of 316 million residents.

Nevada and Arizona received the smallest income gains in the first three years after the recession ended. Salaries and other income in Nevada rose just 3.8 percent and in Arizona, 6.7 percent. The national average was 11.1 percent.

And Nevada’s unemployment rate was 7.7 percent in June, the third-highest. Arizona’s was 6.9 percent, 10th-highest.

The report also points to wide spending disparities elsewhere in the country. Per-person spending in 2012 was highest in Washington, D.C., at $59,423, followed by Massachusetts at $47,308. The next-highest per-person spending totals were in Connecticut, North Dakota and New Jersey.

Spending was lowest that year in Mississippi, at $27,406. Arkansas was second-lowest, at $28,366.

The size of the disparities has changed little in the past decade.

The government’s new report includes figures for specific spending categories. For example, in 2012, consumers spent the most on housing and utilities in Washington, D.C., where per-capita spending reached $11,985, followed by Hawaii at $10,002. Connecticut and Maryland ranked third and fourth. Those figures largely reflect high rents in those areas.

The individual categories of spending data tend to coincide with regional cost-of-living differences. Consumers in Alaska, where food costs are generally high, spent the most on groceries, laying out $3,852 in 2012, followed by Vermont at $3,622, followed by New Hampshire, $3,616, and Hawaii, $3,615.

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