U.S. consumers have long been the fuel for the U.S. economy, but the first quarter of 2019 marked the third consecutive quarter of slowed consumer spending growth relative to the rest of the economy’s main pillars. The U.S. gross domestic product grew 3.2% in the first quarter with consumer spending contributing 0.82 percentage points, its smallest contribution since Q1 2018 (0.36 percentage points) and well below its four-year quarterly average of 1.77 percentage points.
Among the pillars, net exports contributed the most during the quarter to GDP growth, adding 1.03 percentage points after two consecutive quarters of negative contributions. Gross private investment added 0.92 percentage points, with federal, state and local governments adding 0.41.
Consumers, however, still spent $14.25 trillion during the quarter, 68% of all expenditures. Total outstanding consumer credit was about $4.5 trillion as of Feb. 28, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve; that number was about $2.7 trillion in June 2008.