In April, consumers reduced spending on durable goods such as autos by 0.5 percent. The drop followed a big 3.6 percent jump in durable good spending in March. Consumers boosted spending on nondurable goods a slight 0.1 percent while trimming spending on services by 0.1 percent. Spending on services, which includes utility bills, had been rising rapidly during the winter, reflecting higher heating costs due to the severe cold in many parts of the country.
Consumer spending remained strong through the first quarter, rising at an annual rate of 3.1 percent. But much of that strength came from increased health care spending, reflecting new enrollments through the Affordable Care Act.
Friday’s data follows news the previous day that the overall economy shrank 1 percent in the January-March quarter. It was the first contraction in three years and was blamed on a number of special factors including an unusually harsh winter.
Economists estimate that further gains in hiring will boost consumer confidence and spending in the coming months, driving overall economic growth as measured by the gross domestic product. Some analysts say GDP growth could hit an annual rate of 4 percent in the second quarter and top 3 percent in the second half of this year.