Amid the gloom, Consumer Reports finds a glimmer of confidence


Although anybody keeping track of the economic headlines lately might find it hard to believe, the latest Consumer Reports Index measuring the mood of the American consumer has actually picked up since last month, and immediate troubles have subsided substantially.

Not that the August Consumer Sentiment figure of 43.4 was hard to beat – CR said it represented the lowest score in two years. But the number for August moved up significantly to 48.8. The number represents the percentage of consumers who feel they are currently better off than they were a year before, so it is still under par, but not by a whole lot.

CR’s Trouble Tracker, which measures the number of consumers having trouble paying health, mortgage and general costs, enjoyed a very substantial decline of 15.3 points, dropping to 45.3 for September.

The Employment Index was stagnant however, and the lack of job generation is seen as an impediment to a meaningful economic recovery.

“The Consumer Reports Trouble Tracker showed a large swing in the right direction, but that’s just a snapshot of the big picture,” Farrell added.  “At this time, we are in an economy that is shedding more jobs than it is creating. Households that earn less than $50,000 a year, which represent nearly half of the population, continue having trouble finding new jobs, paying bills and affording health care.”

CR added some demographic color, noting, “The most optimistic consumers: age 18-34 at 56.4, and households with income of $100K or more at 56.1. The most pessimistic consumers: households with income less than $50,000 (44.5), and those who are age 65 and older (40.1). Each demographic group showed noticeable increases in overall sentiment compared with August.”