May 30, 2008 (The Editor’s Desk is updated each business day.)

Energy prices and expenditures in the South, 1984-2006

Although energy prices climbed more than 60 percent between 2002 and 2006, Southern households were devoting smaller shares of their total expenditures to energy costs in 2006 than they were in 1984.

Average annual household percent expenditure share, total energy, South region, 1984-2006
[Chart data—TXT]

Even though energy price movements were much more volatile than nonenergy price movements from 1984-2006, household energy expenditures rose at a slower rate than nonenergy expenditures over the long term. This resulted in declining shares of Southern budgets devoted to energy costs through most of the period.

The most important factor in the slower rise in energy expenditures was the relatively stable—or even declining—price of gasoline through most of the 1984-2006 period. However, gasoline was not the only major influence on total energy expenditures in the South: while household electricity consumption rose sharply in the last two-plus decades, below-average rates of increase in electricity prices, particularly during the first 20 years of the study, helped to restrain the rate of increase in household electricity expenditures.

These data are from the Consumer Expenditure Survey and Consumer Price Index program. For more information, see "An analysis of Southern energy expenditures and prices, 1984-2006," by Cheryl Abbot, Monthly Labor Review, April 2008.