Commentary

Slow, But Some, Advancement In Consumer Indices

According to The Consumer Reports Index for July, by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, the economy is showing broad improvements in the condition, behavior and expectations of consumers. Though showing improvement, problems remain, including the proportion 16% of Americans that were unable to afford medical bill or medications, or 8.9% who have lost or have reduced health care coverage, well above levels seen in 2009. A worrisome development is a rise in Americans' homes going into foreclosure in the past 30 days.

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The Consumer Reports Employment Index numbers show job creation increased to 51.1, its highest level since April 2009. The Employment Index has pointed to employment growth in three of the last four months. In July 7.8% of Americans started a new job versus 5.7% that lost their job. 

Consumer spending across index categories rose in July, particularly in the area of personal electronics and major home appliances. Per capita retail spending was up slightly for July ($274), reflecting June activity, from the prior month ($234).

The Trouble Tracker Index, measuring the financial difficulties faced by consumers in the past 30 days, declined to 57.6 from 63.5 the prior month, and is slightly below July of last year (58.8). The most notable improvement was in the proportion of Americans that missed a mortgage payment, down to 2.4% from 3.9% the prior month.

Over the past four months, the Consumer Sentiment Index has crept upwards at a glacial pace, rising from 43.7 in April to 45.2 in July. Despite advances in employment and declining consumer difficulties, Consumer Sentiment stands at 45.2, virtually unchanged from June (45.0).

The most common difficulties faced by Americans are:

  •  Unable to afford medical bills or medications (16.0%), down from 16.4% in June
  •  Missed payment on a major bill - not mortgage (10.0%), up from 9.4% in June
  •  Lost or reduced healthcare coverage (8.9%), down from 9.3% in June
  • Lower-income households, earning less than $50,000 a year, have been disproportionately affected.

In the past 30 days:

  • 22.9% Have been unable to afford medical bills or medications
  • 12.5% Lost or have reduced healthcare coverage
  • 15.3% Missed payment on a major bill - not mortgage

Ed Farrell, a director of the Consumer Reports National Research Center, notes that "The climb out of this recession remains slow with frequent setbacks... unlike the linear climb in most recoveries... many ups and downs as consumers... try to regain their footing... A true bright spot for July is that Americans are heading back to work, with... gains posted in three of the last four months."

Please visit Consumer Reports here to find more detailed information in the The Consumer Reports Index report.

 

 

 

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