This has been an eventful week for the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey. On Tuesday, BLS published a news release on consumer expenditures in 2012. Average expenditures per consumer unit in 2012 were $51,442, an increase of 3.5 percent from 2011 levels. The 2012 increase in spending outpaced the 2.1-percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. Most of the major components of household spending increased in 2012. The 11.2-percent rise in cash contributions (including payments for support of college students, alimony and child support, and giving to charities and religious organizations) was the largest percentage increase among all major components. Spending on transportation and health care rose significantly, while spending on housing and entertainment increased modestly. The feature The Economics Daily includes some graphics on trends in consumer spending over the last decade and on spending by category in 2012.
BLS also published a new Monthly Labor Review article this week about the ongoing research on the best ways to improve the Consumer Expenditure Survey. The survey collects information on spending, income, and household characteristics. This information is used by BLS in computing the Consumer Price Index. Information from the survey also is used by economic policymakers, businesses, academic researchers, and various federal agencies. The project to redesign the survey began in 2009 with the goal of reducing measurement error, particularly error associated with underreporting. Other goals of the redesign were to halt or reverse the decline in response rates while also managing operational costs. The article discusses the motivation, challenges, and accomplishments of the redesign initiative.