COVID-19

When will consumers start feeling better about the future?

Sabri Ben-Achour May 25, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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A reopened Indiana barber shop in mid-May. Consumer confidence may be improving as people begin to return to their usual activities. Scott Olson/Getty Images
COVID-19

When will consumers start feeling better about the future?

Sabri Ben-Achour May 25, 2020
A reopened Indiana barber shop in mid-May. Consumer confidence may be improving as people begin to return to their usual activities. Scott Olson/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The Conference Board’s measure of consumer confidence is out Tuesday. Economists are wondering if — maybe even hoping — there might be some improvement since April’s dramatic declines, now that states are opening back up a bit. 

How do you feel right now, and how do you feel about the future? Those are the two big measures of consumer confidence. Some indicators show that people are starting to feel a little better about the right now, even a little safer.  

“They’re beginning to engage back into society,” said Ashley Kirzinger, an associate director with the Public Opinion and Survey Research team of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Now, as states begin to open back up, the public is starting to engage in usual activities like going to get a haircut or going to the doctor.”

That slow increase in confidence aligns with this month’s Michigan consumer sentiment survey.  But, how people feel about the future hasn’t been looking good recently.

“You actually had the forward-looking index continue to decline,” said David Deull, an economist with IHS Markit. “People are realizing the economic damage from this pandemic is going to last.”

Deull said states relaxing rules can only go so far — the ultimate drivers of confidence come down to jobs and what the virus does.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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