Personal Spending Graphic

A graphic displaying state by state personal spending based on estimates from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. According to the estimates, Connecticut residents spend more on average than almost anywhere else in the country. (August 7, 2014)

Connecticut residents spend more on average than almost anywhere else in the country. When the total spending on housing, utilities, health care, groceries, eating out, insurance, clothing and shoes and so on is divided by every man, woman and child, it was $45,800 in 2012, according to a new federal report.

Only Massachusetts residents and those in Washington, D.C., spend more per capita.

How much of that is because we're richer, and so we can buy bigger houses, go out to eat at fancier places, buy pricier cars and more expensive jeans? And how much of that is because heating costs, housing prices, insurance or health care just cost more here?

"It's both-and," said economist Don Klepper-Smith, who has been estimating disposable income in the state for years. "We basically are a wealthier state, but we also are a high cost state. It's a good news and a bad news story."

Thursday was the first time the Bureau of Economic Analysis has released consumer spending by category for every state, though it qualifies the data as a prototype.

Housing and utilities was the only major category in the report where per person spending in Connecticut was in the top five. Washington, D.C., residents spent $11,985 per capita, Hawaii residents, $10,002 and Connecticut was at $9,524.

Connecticut's spending on health care, which is the second-costliest item for Americans, was eighth in the country.

But the price of a product doesn't always matter as much as the amount we're consuming. For instance, the average Connecticut resident spent $1,401 on gasoline and fuel oil in a year, not much above the national average, even though prices are higher here. The places where gasoline spending was highest were large, rural states, where there are more miles driven, and more miles driven in low-mileage heavy trucks.

The report also revealed how much growth in spending there was each year between 1997 and 2012, and though Connecticut's not having the worst time post-recession compared to housing bust states like Nevada and Arizona, it's definitely in the bottom tier.

In 2009, the only year spending fell year-over-year, the drop in Connecticut was the same as the national average. But every year since then, personal spending has grown more slowly than the national average.

Only four states had slower spending increases than Connecticut in 2012 — Mississippi, Hawaii, Vermont and Rhode Island.

"Last year we ranked 31st in job growth," Klepper-Smith said. "We're creating jobs at a very tepid pace compared to previous recoveries." He said the state's job recovery is 40 percent worse than the nation's.

Alissa DeJonge, vice president for research at the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, said the report "just further confirms our thoughts that the [Connecticut] economy just continues to creep along."

However, she noted that even in 2012, consumer confidence was coming back, because one of the fastest growing categories was a discretionary one — restaurants and hotels. That year, Connecticut's average spending per person on restaurants and hotel stays was $2,298, or $44 a week.