COVID-19

Consumer confidence dips with spread of COVID-19

Mitchell Hartman Mar 27, 2020
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Confidence is likely to get a lot worse, and could reach levels last seen in the Great Recession. Cindy Ord/Getty Images
COVID-19

Consumer confidence dips with spread of COVID-19

Mitchell Hartman Mar 27, 2020
Confidence is likely to get a lot worse, and could reach levels last seen in the Great Recession. Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Consumer confidence steeply declined over the past month, the fourth biggest one-month drop in nearly 50 years, as the novel coronavirus spread and the United States reacted with social disruptions and shut-downs across sectors.

Sentiment dropped 11.9 index points in March, from 101.0 to 89.1, according to the University of Michigan. Confidence is likely to get a lot worse, and could reach levels last seen in the Great Recession.

Richard Curtin, chief economist on Michigan’s survey, wrote “stabilizing confidence at its month’s end level will be difficult given surging unemployment and falling household incomes.”

Early this year, consumer confidence was nearly the highest it’s been in a decade. Then COVID-19 hit.

“When all of these sporting events were cancelled and there was news of different celebrities contracting the virus, consumers turned extremely pessimistic,” said John Leer at Morning Consult.

Leer says Morning Consult’s survey show confidence is down 24% in the past month. Some of that’s from all the job losses. And Leer says people increasingly fear for their financial security.

“Roughly 50% of U.S. households own stocks, so when the stock market falls, that’s hitting their retirements directly,” Leer said.

The Fed and Congress plan to inject trillions into the economy, and Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, says that’ll buck up consumers.

On the flip side: “If we see a substantial number of storefronts that are shuttered that’s going to undermine our sentiment,” Hamrick said.

He says keeping employers afloat until they can start hiring again is key to an eventual consumer rebound.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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