COVID-19

Consumer confidence rises, undeterred by omicron

Amanda Peacher Dec 22, 2021
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The spread of the new coronavirus variant hasn't seemed to dampen consumer confidence, which reached 115.8 in December. However, that remains below pre-pandemic levels. Brandon Bell via Getty Images
COVID-19

Consumer confidence rises, undeterred by omicron

Amanda Peacher Dec 22, 2021
Heard on:
The spread of the new coronavirus variant hasn't seemed to dampen consumer confidence, which reached 115.8 in December. However, that remains below pre-pandemic levels. Brandon Bell via Getty Images
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Numbers out Wednesday from The Conference Board reflect how consumers have been feeling about the economy in the past month.

Despite news of the omicron coronavirus variant spreading and rising inflation, consumers appear to be not all that shaken. Confidence even improved a bit this month, to 115.8 from 111.9 in November.

What’s surprising to John Leer, the chief economist at Morning Consult, is just how little consumers seem to be fazed by omicron.

“Consumer confidence is actually up,” he said.

With each COVID-19 wave or new variant, sentiment is less reactive, he said — and vaccines factor in. 

“Vaccinations have been tremendously helpful in driving consumer confidence,” Leer said.

And consumers’ outlooks are boosted by businesses remaining open even as cases rise. “It’s this broader movement of growing resilience,” he said.

That’s true for software engineer Adam Ahndan in Seattle. These days he’s not as freaked out by COVID news as he once was.  

“Now it feels manageable. It feels like COVID protocols are now just a part of our day-to-day life,” Ahndan said.

In other words, he’ll mask up and take precautions, but those actions feel more like an extra step. “Like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna go drive up in the mountains. Make sure you got your chains in your car and all your cold-weather gear.’”

Still, even though consumer confidence rose this month, uncertainty lingers, per Sharyn O’Halloran, a political economy professor at Columbia.

“We still have significant inflation that is taking place. We still have supply chain disruptions, we have gas and food costs — at significantly high levels,” she said.  

And that’s why, O’Halloran said, consumer confidence is still nowhere near as high as it was right before the pandemic. 

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