Press Release

Household Survey Shows Modest Retreat in Reported and Expected Spending Growth

January 17, 2023

NEW YORK—The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data today released the December 2022 Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE) Household Spending Survey, which provides information on individuals’ experiences and expectations regarding household spending.

The survey shows a recent decline in monthly household spending growth, even though spending growth remains well above pre-pandemic levels. The share of households that report making a large purchase during the past four months fell compared to August 2022 and December 2021 levels, although it increased for home repairs, electronics, and furniture. The share reporting purchasing a vehicle declined to its lowest level since August 2020. Year-ahead overall household spending growth expectations similarly retreated from recent high levels to 4.0% in December 2022, the lowest reading since April 2021, but still considerably higher than pre-pandemic levels. Median year-ahead expected growth in essential and non-essential household spending both declined. Expected spending responses to an unexpected 10% increase in income show the average reported share that would be used to pay down debt increased compared to December 2021 levels, with less of it expected to be spent or donated and saved or invested.

Experiences

  • The median increase in monthly household spending compared to a year ago declined to 7.7% in December 2022, from its series high of 9.0% in August. However, it remains well above its reading of 5.1% in December 2021 and well above its pre-pandemic level of 2.5% in December 2019. The decrease from August 2022 levels was broad-based across age, education, and income groups.
  • Some 56.4% of households in December 2022 reported making at least one large purchase in the last four months, below the 61.7% reading in August and below the December 2021 level of 58.1%.
  • The share reporting making large purchases on home appliances, electronics, and furniture increased in December 2022 relative to August, while the share reporting spending on vehicles, home repairs, homes, and vacations fell.  The share reporting purchasing a vehicle declined to its lowest value since August 2020 and remains below pre-pandemic levels.
  • The reported degree of month-to-month variability in household income was slightly higher in December 2022 compared to its August 2022 and December 2021 readings.

Expectations                                                                                                       

  • Median expected growth in monthly overall household spending over the next year decreased to 4.0% in December from 4.4% in August, its lowest reading since April 2021. The decrease was most pronounced for those with household incomes over $100,000.
  • Median year-ahead expected spending growth on housing (3.2%) and food (8.1%) declined while clothing (4.3%), transportation (5.4%), medical care (4.7%), utilities (5.1%), and recreation (3.2%) all increased.*
  • Differentiating spending on essential and non-essential items, the median year-ahead expected change in everyday essential spending (daily living expenses) dropped to 5.2% in December from 5.6% in August, its lowest reading since April 2021 but remaining well above pre-pandemic levels. The median expected change in spending on non-essential items, such as hobbies, leisure, or vacation, over the next year also declined to 1.7% in December from 1.8% in August 2022 and 2.5% in December 2021.
  • While households expect a smaller increase in their overall spending over the next 12 months, the average reported likelihood of making a large purchase over the next four months increased in December for home appliances and electronics, compared to August, while it declined for furniture, home repairs, vacations, vehicles, and homes.
  • Reported expected spending responses to an unexpected 10% increase in income show an average of 33.8% would be used by households to pay down debt (up from 31.4% in December 2021); 47.7% would be saved or invested (down from 48.8% in prior year); and 18.5% would be spent or donated (down from 19.7% in prior year).

Detailed results are available here.

About the SCE Household Spending Survey

The SCE Household Spending Survey, fielded as part of the Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE), provides information on consumers' experiences and expectations regarding their spending patterns. Every four months, SCE panelists are asked details about their expectations for year-ahead changes in household spending (both in the aggregate and by category), spending on essential and non-essential items, and the likelihood of making different large purchases. The SCE Household Spending Survey also solicits information on the expected spending and saving response to an unexpected increase or decline in household income. In addition to questions about large purchases and changes in total spending over the past year, respondents are asked about the month-to-month variability in their household income.

For further information on the SCE, please refer to an overview of the survey methodology, the interactive chart guide, the survey questionnaire, and the FAQs.

*Due to a data recording error in the “expectations about household spending by expense category” series, the data for this series has been revised going back to December 2014.

Contact
Ellen Simon
(347) 978-3036
Ellen.Simon@ny.frb.org

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