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Associated Press
In this Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, file photo, a man examines a row of washers and dryers while shopping at a Sears store in Henderson, Nev. Consumer spending has recovered at a much slower pace in states with big housing busts, a stark illustration of how the housing downturn has weighed on the economy years after the recession. Spending in Nevada rose just 3.5 percent in the first three years after the recession ended, the weakest of any state and far below the national average of 10.7 percent, according to a new annual government report.

Spending shows recession touch

Consumer patterns reflect how states have fared, data find

WASHINGTON – North Dako­tans, enriched by an oil boom, stepped up their spending at triple the national pace in the three years after the recession. In Nevada, hit hard by the housing bust, consumers barely increased their spending.

Americans spend the most per person on housing in Washington, D.C., and the least in West Vir­ginia.

Those and other figures emerged Thursday in an annual report from the government that reveals consumer spending on a state-by-state basis from 1997 through 2012. The numbers point to substantial shifts in the economy since the recession, which began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

Spending jumped 28 percent in North Dakota, the largest gain nationwide, from 2009 through 2012. It surged nearly 16 percent in Oklahoma. The next-largest increases were in South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia.

Changes in spending patterns in North Dakota have been par­tic­ularly dramatic. Its pre-re­ces­­sion per capita spending in 2007 was $32,780, 24th among states. By 2012, North Dakota's per capita spending soared to $44,029, fourth-highest nationwide (fig­ures not adjusted for inflation).

North Dakota has boomed in large part because of the breakthrough drilling technique known as “fracking,” which has unlocked vast oil and gas reserves. Per-person income rose 37.2 percent, ac­cording to a separate report, by far the most for any state. North Dakota's unemployment rate was a barely visible 2.7 percent in June, the lowest in the nation.

By contrast, spending eked out a scant 3.5 percent increase in Nevada, the weakest for any state and far below the 10.7 percent national average. Arizona's 6.2 percent increase was next-weakest, followed by Hawaii's, Florida's and Utah's.

When the housing bust struck in 2006, home values plummeted in Nevada, Arizona and Florida. The persistently weak consumer spending in those states underscores the lingering damage the housing bust inflicted on their economies.

Nevada and Arizona also received the smallest income gains in the first three years after the recession. Salaries and other income in Nevada rose just 3.8 percent and in Arizona, 6.7 percent. The national average was 11.1 percent.

Nevada's unemployment rate was 7.7 percent in June, the third-highest. Arizona's was 6.9 per­cent, 10th highest.

Government figures show that state-by-state spending patterns were radically different before the recession. In the three years before the downturn, for example, spending in Arizona jumped 21.2 percent, fourth-highest in the nation.

Spending rose the most in Wyoming, where it surged 24.5 percent, followed by Louisiana and Hawaii.

The report shows wide spend­ing disparities elsewhere in the country. Per-person spending in 2012 was highest in Washington, D.C., at $59,423, followed by Massachusetts at $47,308. The next-highest per-person spending totals were in Connecticut, North Dakota and New Jersey.

Spending was lowest that year in Mississippi at $27,406. Arkansas was second-lowest at $28,366.

The size of the disparities has changed little in the past decade.

The report includes figures for specific spending categories; the data tend to coincide with regional cost-of-living differences. For example, consumers in Alaska, where food costs are typically high, spent the most on groceries, laying out $3,852 in 2012, followed by Vermont at $3,622, followed by New Hampshire, $3,616, and Hawaii, $3,615.

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