This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

January 6, 2010

Consumers Looking Up

As we have reported in the past, consumer confidence plays an important role in forecasting the future. Consumers' optimistic expectations have a positive effect on many aspects of the economy.

According to recently released surveys from both The Conference Board and the Pew Research Center, most people in the United States looking up. According to the Pew survey, while only 27 percent of Americans had a positive feeling about the 2000s, most (59 percent) think the coming decade will be better than the last for the country as a whole, a view held across most political and demographic.

At the same time, a significant minority---32 percent---believes that things will be worse in the 2010s than in the 2000s. Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats (42 percent versus 20 percent) to offer a pessimistic assessment of the next decade. Only a third (34 percent) of independents holds a gloomy expectation.

Generationally, the most optimistic group is young people, ages 18 to 29, 65 percent of whom feel positively about the next decade. On the negative side, people between the ages of 50 and 64 are the most pessimistic about the 2010s---42 percent think things will be worse. This statistic compares with 30 percent of people under 50 and just 26 percent of those ages 65 and older.

In both November and December, The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, rose. The Index now stands at 52.9, up from 50.6 in November. The Expectations Index increased to 75.6 from 70.3 last month. Expectations for the short-term future increased to the highest level in two years (Index 75.8, Dec. 2007). A more optimistic outlook for business and labor market conditions was the driving force behind the increase in the Expectations Index.

The outlook for the labor market was also more upbeat. The percentage of consumers expecting more jobs to become available in the months ahead increased to 16.2 percent from 15.8 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs decreased to 20.7 percent from 23.1 percent.

These positive expectations will support higher levels of consumer spending and therefore, drive retail sales as well as the labor market. Expect the labor market to tighten even more for in-demand skill sets.


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