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Economic News Release
CE CES Program Links

Consumer Expenditures Survey (Annual) News Release

For release: 10:00 a.m. (EDT), Tuesday, October 6, 2009	USDL-09-1208

Technical Information:	(202) 691-6900  •  •
Media Contact :	        (202) 691-5902  •

                    CONSUMER EXPENDITURES–-2008

Average annual expenditures per consumer unit(1) rose 1.7 percent in 2008 
following an increase of 2.6 percent in 2007, according to results from the 
Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the 
U.S. Department of Labor. The spending increase was less than the 3.8-percent 
increase in prices from 2007 to 2008 as measured by the average annual change in 
the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U). The increase in spending in 2008 was the 
smallest increase since the 0.3-percent rise in 2003.	

Increases in spending for housing (1.1 percent) and food (5.1 percent) were 
somewhat offset by decreases in spending for transportation (-1.8 percent) and 
apparel (-4.3 percent) resulting in the small overall increase in 2008. Among the 
other major components, spending increased for healthcare (4.3 percent), personal 
insurance and pensions (5.0 percent), and entertainment (5.1 percent). 

Table A. Average annual expenditures and characteristics of all consumer units and 
percent changes, Consumer Expenditure Survey, 2006-2008
                                                          Percent change
Item                         2006     2007     2008    2006-2007 2007-2008
Number of consumer
 units (000’s)            118,843  120,171  120,770

Income before taxes       $60,533  $63,091  $63,563	  4.2	     0.7

Average age of
 reference person            48.7     48.8     49.1

Average number in
 consumer unit:
  Persons                     2.5      2.5      2.5      
  Earners                     1.3      1.3	1.3
  Vehicles                    1.9      1.9	2.0
Percent homeowner              67       67	 66

Average annual
 expenditures             $48,398  $49,638  $50,486       2.6        1.7
  Food                      6,111    6,133    6,443   	  0.4        5.1
    At home                 3,417    3,465    3,744   	  1.4        8.1
    Away from home          2,694    2,668    2,698   	 -1.0        1.1
  Housing                  16,366   16,920   17,109    	  3.4        1.1
  Apparel and services      1,874    1,881    1,801       0.4       -4.3
  Transportation            8,508    8,758    8,604       2.9       -1.8
  Healthcare                2,766    2,853    2,976       3.1        4.3
  Entertainment             2,376    2,698    2,835      13.6        5.1
  Personal insurance						     
   and pensions             5,270    5,336    5,605       1.3        5.0
  All other expenditures    5,129    5,060    5,113      -1.3        1.0

1 Consumer units include families, single persons living alone or sharing a 
household with others but who are financially independent, or two or more persons 
living together who share expenses.

Consumer Expenditure Survey data include the expenditures and income of consumers, 
as well as the demographic characteristics of those consumers. Tables with more 
expenditure detail than is shown in this news release will be available at Published tables provide 2008 CE data by standard 
classifications that include income quintile, income class, age of reference 
person, size of consumer unit, number of earners, composition of consumer unit, 
region of residence, housing tenure, type of area (urban-rural), race, Hispanic 
origin, occupation, and education. Other tables available on the website include 
expenditures by age, region, size, or gender cross-tabulated by income before 
taxes and other demographic variables. Historical tables back to 1984 and 
tabulations for selected metropolitan areas are also available. 

Consumer Spending from 1988-2008

A primary use of the Consumer Expenditure Survey data is to measure how consumers 
allocate their spending among the various components of total expenditures. For 
example, the 2008 data show that the largest component of consumers’ budgets is 
housing, which accounts for about a third of overall spending. Another use of the 
CE data is to look at how spending patterns change over time. Table B shows how 
the amounts spent for selected expenditure components changed over the 20-year 
period from 1988 to 2008, in nominal dollars. As prices and incomes generally rise 
over time, it is expected that the nominal dollar amounts spent on various 
components will also increase. However, differences in the rates of price 
increases (or decreases), shifts in expenditure patterns, and economic conditions 
such as the recent recessionary period, will all contribute to changes in the 
amounts that consumers allocate to the spending components. Spending changes 

•  Spending on owned dwellings, a component of housing that includes such items 
   as mortgage interest, property taxes and insurance, and maintenance and 
   repairs, showed a large increase from $2,569 in 1988 to $6,760 in 2008.
•  The run-up in gasoline prices is reflected in the rapid rise in expenditures 
   in the last several years.
•  Spending on both food and healthcare showed steady increases over the period.
•  The amount spent on apparel and services showed very little change over the 
   period, from $1,489 in 1988 to $1,801 in 2008, a reflection of the small 
   increase in clothing prices over the period—just 3.0 percent as measured by 
   the CPI-U.  In contrast, the overall CPI-U increased by 82.0 percent over the 
   same period.
Table B. Average annual expenditures for selected components in nominal dollars, 
Consumer Expenditure Survey, selected years 1988-2008
Item                         1988     1993     1998     2003 	  2008
Food			   $3,748   $4,399   $4,810   $5,340	$6,443
Owned dwellings		    2,569    3,331    4,245    5,263	 6,760
Utilities, fuels, 
 and public services	    1,747    2,112    2,405    2,811	 3,649
Apparel and services	    1,489    1,676    1,674    1,640	 1,801
Gasoline and motor oil	      932      977    1,017    1,333	 2,715
Healthcare		    1,298    1,776    1,903    2,416	 2,976

Other available data

A forthcoming annual report will include a brief discussion of expenditure changes 
in 2008 and tables with data classified by the standard characteristics included 
on the website. Detailed reports that include CE data are published at two-year 
intervals and include the standard tabulations and cross-tabulations at the same 
level of expenditure detail as shown on the website. Metropolitan area tables are 
also included. All data published in the reports and posted to the website are 
integrated from the two CE components—the quarterly Interview Survey and weekly 
Diary Survey.

Other survey information available on the Internet includes answers to frequently 
asked questions, a glossary, order forms for survey products, and analytical 
articles that use CE data. Beginning with the 2000 data, standard error tables for 
integrated data are available on the BLS site. Also available are the Diary Survey 
questionnaire form and a modified version of the computer assisted personal 
interview (CAPI) instrument used to collect the Interview Survey data.
The 2008 Diary and Interview microdata will be available soon on CD-ROM. The 
Interview files contain expenditure data in two different formats: MTAB files that 
present monthly values in an item-coding framework based on the CPI pricing 
scheme, and EXPN files that organize expenditures by the section of the Interview 
questionnaire in which they are collected. Expenditure values on EXPN files cover 
different time periods depending on the specific questions asked, and the files 
also contain relevant non-expenditure information not found on the MTAB files. The 
CE microdata files are available on CD-ROM back to 1990 and for selected earlier 
years. In addition to the standard ASCII and PC SAS formats offered the past 
several years, three additional formats are available beginning in 2007—STATA, 
SPSS, and ASCII comma-delimited. (See for details.)
For further information, contact the Division of Consumer Expenditure Surveys, 
Office of Prices and Living Conditions, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 
2 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Washington, DC  20212-0001 or call 202-691-6900; 
E-mail: Information in this release will be made available to 
sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: 202-691-5200; TDD message 
referral phone number: 1-800-877-8339.

Last Modified Date: October 06, 2009