We often hear in the media that consumer spending is crucial to the overall health of the U.S. economy, but exactly how important is it? Representing approximately two-thirds of overall GDP, consumption--the almighty consumer--is the largest driver of economic growth in the United States. Of the nearly $18 trillion in U.S. GDP (2015), American shoppers are responsible for a piece of the pie worth about $12 trillion.
Consumption is tracked by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and is reported as Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) in its monthly "Personal Income and Outlays" news release. Since the late 1960s, PCE as a percentage of overall GDP has crept up from a low of approximately 58% to nearly 70% today.
PCE is divided into goods and services. The services category typically represents the largest part of PCE, accounting for more than 65% over the past two years. Examples of services include health care, utilities, recreation, and financial services.