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Report: Spending by New Englanders strongest in U.S.

New Englanders spent more on food, health care, gas to run their cars and electricity to heat and cool their homes in 2012 than most other Americans, according to statistics released yesterday by the federal government showing that spending has rebounded since the recession ended in 2009.

The numbers are from a new annual report the U.S. Department of Commerce issued for the first time showing consumer spending state-by-state. The numbers point to substantial shifts in the economy since the Great Recession ended five years ago.

Individually, consumers spent more in New England – $44,549 – in 2012 than in any other region in the United States, according to the statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Spending overall in the region jumped 11 percent since the end of the recession in 2009, which is comparable to rising spending in most other regions.

Nationally, consumer spending was $35,498 in 2012, the most recent year for which the statistics were available.

In contrast, personal consumer spending in the Southwest and Southeast was the lowest in the United States in 2012, at about $32,200.

Spending per individual in the six New England states ranged from a low of $36,974 in Rhode Island, which has been hobbled by persistently high unemployment to $47,308 in Massachusetts in 2012, the most recent year that statistics were available.

Spending in New England on staples such as housing, energy and food were close to the top in the United States. For example, per capita personal spending for housing and utilities was third highest in the nation in Connecticut, at $9,542, following Washington, D.C., and Hawaii.

Affordable housing in Connecticut has been a persistent issue and high energy prices have been targeted by a series of legislative measures enacted by Gov. Dannel Malloy and the legislature since 2011.

Personal spending on health care was second highest in the U.S. in Massachusetts, at $8,816. Only Washington, D.C., was higher.

Per capita spending on food and beverages in supermarkets and grocery stores was second highest in the nation in Vermont, at $3,622, followed by Alaska. And spending for gasoline and other energy products was fourth highest in the U.S. in Maine, at $2,373.

New England was not alone in comparatively high personal consumer spending. The entire Northeast, including Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York accounted for per capita spending higher than most of the rest of the United States.

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