Grocery Spending Remains High in August

The Wall Street Journal says consumers have cut back on grocery purchases over the past month:

With Second Stimulus Checks on Hold, Americans Spend Less at the Grocery Store

Grocery shoppers are cutting back on spending, data show, a sign that Americans are hurting for cash as the federal unemployment stimulus remains on hold for most recipients.

…While sales of groceries, such as frozen dinners, cereal, soup and coffee, are still higher than they were a year ago, sales growth has slowed compared with July and prior months in the pandemic. Sales growth of frozen dinners, for instance, averaged about 9% for the three weeks ended Aug. 16, compared with around 17% for the previous two weeks, according to the IRI CPG Demand Index. Cereal sales, meanwhile, averaged a 2% increase the three weeks ended Aug. 16, compared with about 6% average growth the prior two weeks, the IRI data show.

Ahem. For starters, the BEA just released data for spending on groceries through the end of the second quarter. Here it is:

Spending on groceries skyrocketed during the first two quarters of the year thanks to more meals being eaten at home. It’s pretty obvious that this kind of growth couldn’t last forever, so of course it slowed down in August. It could hardly do anything else.

And despite the Journal’s headline, there’s no evidence that consumers are “cutting back on spending” at the grocery store. There is merely evidence that grocery sales aren’t growing as fast as they did earlier in the year. That’s a very different thing.

There’s little doubt that the end of unemployment bonuses affected spending on food and everything else starting in July. There’s also little doubt that spending on groceries will begin to fall as the country opens back up and spending on restaurant meals gets back to normal. But for now, none of that has happened. Consumers haven’t cut back on grocery purchases, they’ve just hit a new, higher plateau and are now spending at that level rather than continuing to grow forever. That’s all.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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