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Consumer spending still lags in RI since recession

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Consumer spending in Rhode Island has rebounded since the depths of the Great Recession, but new numbers released by the federal government Thursday show the state still lags behind New England and the nation.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated state-by-state consumer spending on a variety of goods and services to provide a snapshot of consumer confidence.

In Rhode Island, the estimates showed that per-capita spending grew 9 percent from when the recession ended in 2009 and 2012, the most recent year for which numbers are available. It was the lowest growth rate in New England during that period, and lower than the national growth rate of 10.7 percent.

Rhode Island's economy has struggled for years, and the state has had one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation since 2008. For three-and-a-half years, the unemployment rate was in the double digits, reaching a high of 11.9 percent for four months in 2009 and 2010. The unemployment rate in June was 7.9 percent, tied with Mississippi for the worst in the nation.

In 2012, consumer spending was $36,974 per capita in Rhode Island, also lowest in New England, but higher than the national number of $35,498.

Consumer spending in New England was higher in 2012 than in any other region of the country.

Rhode Island residents spent less than those in all other New England states on expenses such as food, $2,804, and gas, $1,122. While per-capita housing and utilities costs were lower than in most states in the Northeast, 2012 per-capita spending of $7,421 in Rhode Island was still significantly higher than the $6,415 spent nationally.

Health care spending in Rhode Island was much higher than nationally, but second-lowest in New England, at $6,700. Only New Hampshire was lower. Nationally, the amount of per-capita spending in 2012 on health care was $5,886.

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