Arkansas per-person consumer spending among lowest in US, but state still sees jump since 2009

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Arkansas had the country's second-lowest per-person consumer spending in 2012, but residents also spent less than most Americans on groceries, housing and health care costs, according to government data released Thursday.

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The figures come in a new report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis that for the first time reveals consumer spending on a state-by-state basis. The report found that spending jumped in many states since the recession ended in 2009 but lagged in others hit hard by the housing bust.

Only Mississippi had a lower per-person consumer spending rate in 2012, at $27,406. Arkansas came in at $28,366, followed by Nevada, Alabama and Hawaii. Washington, D.C., recorded the highest number at $59,423, followed by Massachusetts at $47,308 and Connecticut at $45,800. The size of the disparities has changed little in the past decade.

But the new data also shows a 12 percent growth in consumer spending from 2009 to 2012 in Arkansas. In 2009, as the recession officially ended, Arkansas' per-person spending was $25,295. Since then, the state's annual unemployment rate peaked at 8 percent in 2011 before dropping back to 7.5 percent in 2012. The rate is now 6.2 percent as of June.

The government's report includes figures for specific spending categories. For example, 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.

Consumers in Arkansas paid the third-lowest amount in housing and utility costs, at $4,500. The state's residents also paid the second-lowest amount per person for groceries and other off-premises food and beverages, at $2,243 per person in 2012. The national average was $2,750.

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For health care, Arkansans spent $4,828 per person in 2012. Only consumers in Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Georgia spent less.

Arkansans only spent above the national average in one category — for gasoline and energy costs, residents spent $1,669, compared to the U.S. average of $1,328.