Electric Bills and Expenditures on Meats and Poultry

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Released March 5:

Last Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department published detailed data on Americans’ consumption expenditures through year-end 2018. And we saw for the first time that just 1.27 percent of expenditures were households’ electric bills in December (about one and a quarter percent).

This was only the fifth time that electric bills were less than 1.3 percent of consumption expenditures since January 1959, sixty years ago, spanning seven hundred and twenty months. As remarkable, all five of those months were in the last two years, 2017 and 2018.

The U.S. economy’s consumption expenditures were 14.2 trillion dollars in December, annualized. Electric bills were 179.4 billion dollars.

Households’ natural gas bills were 46.7 billion dollars in December, annualized. That was as low as 0.33 percent of expenditures (a third of one percent). Though you can’t compare the percentages of electric and gas bills since not all American households pay gas bills as they do electric bills.

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But most households pay bills for water supply and sewage maintenance. Households’ water bills were $74.8 billion in December, annualized. That was 0.53 percent of expenditures (around a half of one percent).

Electric bills were almost identical in aggregate to consumption expenditures on meats and poultry purchased for off-premises use, such as from supermarkets, 178.6 billion dollars, 1.26 percent of expenditures. This does exclude meats and poultry bought from restaurants of all kinds, from McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A to your favorite steakhouse.

That electric bills and supermarket bills for meats and poultry are almost even is a real change from our history since the fifties. In 1959, electric bills were 1.49 percent of consumption expenditures while meats and poultry purchases for off-premises use were 4.36 percent, almost three times greater.

And natural gas bills were as high as 0.94 percent of consumption expenditures in 1959 and rose to 1.28 percent in 1983. That peak was nearly four times greater that the natural gas percentage in 2018.