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US Consumers and the Economic Outlook Consumer Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Consumers and the Economic Outlook market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

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What are the key challenges facing the industry and how fast are its rates of growth? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Summary

The US economy weathered the political tumult of 2017 with surprising vigor, as most major economic indicators fared increasingly better throughout the year. The nation’s GDP (gross domestic product) has been on the rise for 17 consecutive quarters, and consumer confidence has been marching forward at record levels, while unemployment continues to drop.

US and global stock markets saw immense growth and record highs in 2017, but have also experienced significant volatility in the early months of 2018. While the Federal Reserve raised interest rates three times in 2017-reflecting faith in an improving economy and labor market-rising inflation and uncertainty surrounding future monetary policy have resulted in a market correction and much consternation among financial analysts. Furthermore, consumers have yet to experience a significant increase in their purchasing power, owing to a stagnation or even reduction in real wages for the majority of the middle class, as well as a rising CPI (consumer price index).

Despite these issues, the American consumer remains largely confident and most individuals feel that their economic situation will change for the better over the course of the next twelve months. Further buoying the national sentiment is the optimism of the country’s youngest consumers, as iGen and Millennial respondents are significantly more likely than older generations to anticipant future financial improvements.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Chris Shadle, a leading analyst in the Financial Services sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The US economy weathered the political tumult of 2017 with surprising vigor, as most major economic indicators fared increasingly better throughout the year. The nation’s GDP (gross domestic product) has been on the rise for 17 consecutive quarters, and consumer confidence has been marching forward at record levels, while unemployment continues to drop. Chris Shadle
Financial Services Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Executive Summary

    • Economic overview
      • In focus: area of residence
      • State of the Economy

        • Economic overview
          • Figure 1: Key economic indicators, August 2018
        • Unemployment numbers are decreasing, but wages are not significantly increasing
          • Figure 2: Median household income, 1980-2017*
        • Consumer confidence
          • Figure 3: Consumer Sentiment Index, January 2016-August 2018
      • Current Financial Situation

        • Consumer opinion shows optimism heading into Fall
          • Figure 4: Opinion on current financial situation, August 2018
        • Financial situations remain consistent
          • Figure 5: Opinion on current financial situation, Q1 2017-Q3 2018
        • Suburban consumers most confident about their finances
          • Figure 6: Opinion on current financial situation, by geographic region, August 2018
      • Changes in Financial Wellbeing

        • Financial optimism reflected in looking to the future
          • Figure 7: Changes in financial wellbeing, August 2018
        • Most consumers still see little to no change, but confidence rebounds to earlier levels
          • Figure 8: Changes in financial situation, Q1 2017-Q3 2018
        • Urban, rural consumers are most positive for the upcoming year
            • Figure 9: Changes in financial situation, by geographic region, August 2018
        • Improving Finances

          • Consumers continue to rely on what they can control
            • Figure 10: Top ways to improve financial situation, August 2018
            • Figure 11: PayPal back to school email, September 2018
          • Job stability jumps in popularity for Q3
            • Figure 12: Top ways to improve financial situation, Q1 2017-Q3 2018
          • Geography affects opinions on improving economic situation
            • Figure 13: Improving financial situation, by geographic region, August 2018
        • Spending Plans

          • Consumers continue to cut back on spending to add to savings
            • Figure 14: Savings habits, Q1 2017-Q3 2018
          • Home renovations continue to be biggest expense
            • Figure 15: Spending habits, Q1 2017-Q3 2018
        • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

          • Data sources
            • Consumer survey data
              • Direct marketing creative
                • Abbreviations and terms
                  • Abbreviations