A look at various consumer spending reports

AP News
Posted: Dec 23, 2011 7:24 PM
A look at various consumer spending reports

Friday's government data on consumer income and spending came from a monthly report issued by the Commerce Department. That report isn't the only reading on how much Americans are spending. Here are various reports that cover such figures:


Surveys by private groups capture the most up-to-date retail spending patterns. But they don't include as many companies as the government reports do. The International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index tracks sales at stores open at least a year. The index is a proxy for 24 major national stores, including Target Corp, Costco Wholesale Corp. and Macy's.


Commerce issues a monthly report on retail sales that covers sales not just at major national chains but at all retailers. It provides a broader look at retail activity. The report includes such categories as specialty clothing stores, hardware stores, furniture stores, sporting goods and hobby stores and electronics and appliance stores. It also covers auto dealerships, restaurants and bars, grocery stores and gasoline stations. The sales figures are seasonally adjusted. That way, the current month can be compared with the previous month. But the figures aren't adjusted for inflation.


This report is also released monthly by the Commerce Department. It's the most inclusive look at consumer activity. It covers all spending done at retail establishments _ both for durable goods (items such as autos that are expected to last at least three years) and nondurable goods such as food and clothing. What makes this report comprehensive is that it also covers spending on services. Services include items such as doctor's visits, airline and bus tickets, apartment rentals and utility bills. The service category makes up two-thirds of consumer spending and isn't covered in the retail surveys.