Image via flickr user Jernej Furman

published on April 13, 2021 - 11:37 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

A new study from online lending markeplace LendingTree found that consumer spending in Fresno was nearly 15% higher than prior to the pandemic — from the period of mid-January 2020 to the end of February 2021.

That’s compared to the national average for consumer spending that was 1.6% lower in that period, according to the LendingTree study.

That puts Fresno at No. 3 of the biggest pandemic spending metropolitan areas of the U.S., below Baltimore at No. 1 with a nearly 36% increase and Honolulu at No. 2 with a nearly 18% increase.

The average dining transaction nationally rose from $25.66 in February 2020 to $47.53 in February 2021 — an 85.2% increase. This was the biggest increase among the categories tracked.

Professional service transactions dropped from an average of $171.15 to $142.12 between February 2020 and 2021 — a decrease of 17% and largest among the tracked categories.

In the face of the Central Valley’s big-spending ways, only 11 of 51 major metro areas actually saw an increase in spending during the pandemic.

“It’s no surprise that spending is down since the pandemic began,” said Matt Schulz, LendingTree’s chief credit analyst. “There are plenty of reasons for it, but the biggest one is that people simply haven’t been able to spend on many of the pricier things they love to do. Not being able to do all of these things has really kept people’s spending down. That is slowly starting to change, but we’ve still got a long way to go before we’re back to normal.”

The study notes that Fresno had an unemployment rate of about 10% in January.

“One of the reasons that high unemployment may increase consumer spending is that supplemental uninsurance benefits have been available at times, making certain goods and services accessible,” according to the study. “And the necessity for higher-priced, contactless services, like grocery delivery, could also contribute to this trend.”

Researchers used the website for estimates of changes in consumer spending, as well as employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and account histories of more than 61,000 anonymized LendingTree users.

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