Consumers spent big on having fun in 2021

<p>According to data released on September 8 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American consumers splurged on entertainment in 2021. People are pictured here at Nathan's Famous at Coney Island in New York in May of 2021.</p>

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According to data released on September 8 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American consumers splurged on entertainment in 2021. People are pictured here at Nathan's Famous at Coney Island in New York in May of 2021.

After spending 2020 cooped up as a fast-spreading, deadly virus limited most aspects of everyday life, American consumers splurged in 2021, shelling out an average of $3,568 on entertainment, according to data released Thursday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s up 22.7% from 2020, and surpasses 2019 levels by just over 15%. The amount that U.S. consumers spent on items like campers, boats, concert tickets, sporting events, pets, toys and televisions is the highest on record and the biggest gain among spending categories.

The amount consumers spent on housing was also the highest on record, up more than 9% from 2019. The share of total spending dedicated to housing was 33.8% last year, down from 34.9% in the nesting-heavy 2020, but up 1 percentage point from 2019. Last year, home prices jumped 18.8%, the biggest increase in 34 years, according to S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index.

The BLS survey on consumer expenditures illustrates just how much spending patterns have changed during this historic period. Overall spending for the year outpaced income growth with spending levels 9.1% above 2020’s and 6% higher than in 2019.

Average incomes before taxes grew nearly 3.7% from 2020 and were up 5.5% from 2019. After-tax income grew 5% and 10%, respectively.

Spending in areas significantly muted due to the pandemic — like restaurants, transportation, travel, and education — bounced back in 2021, with most categories coming close to matching their 2019 levels. However, the data likely shows some influence from inflation, which increased to 7% from 1.3% in 2021.

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