Americans’ outlook for economy holds close to 13-month low

One in five Americans in November said the economy is improving, matching the smallest share in two years and keeping a monthly gauge of expectations close to a 13-month low.

The measure tracking the economic outlook was little changed at 42.5 last month after October reading of 42, which was the lowest since September 2014, data from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index showed Thursday. While 20 percent of respondents said the economy was getting better, 45 percent viewed it as staying the same, the largest share since February 2012.

Bloomberg’s weekly gauge of consumer sentiment was also little changed: 41.2 in the period ended Nov. 15 compared with 41.6 the prior week. A measure of confidence among full-time workers was the weakest in about a year, which is at odds with the latest payrolls report that showed employers in October added the most jobs this year.

"Consumer views have lacked consistent direction this year,” said Gary Langer, president of the New York-based Langer Research Associates LLC, which compiles the survey for Bloomberg. Even as some economic data have shown improvement, the limited number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs suggests ”workers lack confidence in the strength of the labor market.”

The share of respondents in the survey who said the economy was improving fell from 23 percent in the previous month. With 35 percent viewing it as getting worse, negative expectations have outweighed positive outlooks for the past seven months.

The report stands in contrast to the University of Michigan’s preliminary consumer sentiment index, which advanced to a four-month high in November.

Bloomberg’s weekly sentiment gauge, which includes current views of the economy, personal finances and buying climate, has declined in four of the past five weeks and is holding just above this year’s low of 40.1, reached in early June.

Consumers' attitudes about spending retrenched after jumping the previous week. The buying climate index, which measures whether consumers think it is a good time to purchase goods and services, dropped by 1 point to 37.

The measure of how households perceive their personal finances has continued to deteriorate. The measure declined to 54.4, its lowest level since August, from 55.1. The gauge has lost 6.1 points since mid-October. The index measuring sentiment about the current state of the economy was little changed.

By region, confidence decreased in three of four regions, with the only gain coming in the Northeast.

Sentiment declined last week in five of the seven income brackets, with households making less than $15,000 feeling less optimistic after the index rose to an almost four-month high the prior week. Results of the University of Michigan’s survey showed sentiment was being propelled by those in the bottom two- thirds pay scale, who had the most favorable income expectations in almost nine years.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.