Poll: Consumers spent less in August

Spending in this group is down $7 compared with August 2009. Only once — in May — has upper-income spending exceeded the 2009 "new normal" spending range of $107 to $121 per day, according to the poll. 

Middle- and lower-income consumers also spent less last month, an average of $54 per day — down from $64 in July and $62 in June, and lower than the $57 in August 2009. 

Americans in these income groups had been spending at the higher end of last year's "new normal" range of $52 to $61 but are now back to the lower end of that range.

Disappointing back-to-school spending was followed by more spending over Labor Day, as more people used the long weekend to travel. Spending for the week before Labor Day averaged $61 per day — the same as during the prior week, and down from a $70 average during the same week in 2009.

Spending will probably only increase as the job market improves. The unemployment rate has hovered at 9.5 percent and ticked up slightly in August, to 9.6 percent.