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Consumer Spending Up, But Higher Gas Prices Are Major Reason

Economists watch consumer spending closely because it accounts for about 70 percent of all that's spent on goods and services in the U.S.

So on its face, the news that consumer spending shot up 0.7 percent in February from January sounds positive.

But the word that much of the increase was because anyone who drives had to shell out a lot more for gasoline puts a much less rosy spin on the report. By one measure in the Bureau of Economic Analysis' report on spending, the price of "energy goods and services" (which gasoline is a major part of) was up 11 percent in February vs. February 2010.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.