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U.S. Consumer Attitudes Worsen in September

U.S. Consumer Attitudes Worsen in September

Story Highlights

  • Gallup's Economic Confidence Index slips further in September
  • Index is now at low level last seen in early January
  • Confidence down on both "current" and "outlook" components of index

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After dipping in August, Gallup's Economic Confidence Index fell further in September, returning to a depressed level not seen since early January. Still, Americans' confidence in the economy as captured by this index is not as low as Gallup found at the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

Line graph. Monthly trend from January 2020 to September 2021 in Gallup Economic Confidence Index. The index, which summarizes Americans overall view of the economy's current conditions and direction, fell to -21 in September from -12 in August. The index had been closer to the zero midpoint from April to July after improving from -21 in January. The index is better today than near the start of the pandemic in April 2020, when it registered -33.

The latest results are based on a Gallup poll conducted Sept. 1-17.

Gallup's Economic Confidence Index represents Americans' net optimism about the economy, combining their views about current economic conditions and perceptions of the direction of the economy. The index has a theoretical maximum of +100 if all Americans were to say the economy is "excellent" or "good" and improving, and a theoretical minimum of -100 if all were to say the economy is "only fair" or "poor" and getting worse.

The latest index score is -21, down from -12 in August after falling from -6 in July. September's score matches the record low for 2021 that was recorded in January. At that time, increased pessimism among Republicans just ahead of the presidential transition was found to account for the drop. Americans' relatively negative economic perspective today likely reflects the ongoing surge in coronavirus infections due to the delta variant. Also, the August jobs report released Sept. 3 showed weak job growth compared with prior months, even though the unemployment rate declined. Inflation could also be a factor, as it remains high with consumer prices up 5.3% in August compared with the same time last year.

Gallup's Economic Confidence Index also registered -21 in June 2020 as it rebounded from the recent low point of -33 found near the start of the global coronavirus pandemic in April of that year.

Americans' Ratings of Current Conditions Sour as Outlook Worsens

Americans' views of the economy deteriorated this month on both the "current" and "outlook" dimensions of the index.

  • Net confidence in current conditions fell nine points from a fairly neutral -1 in August to -10 in September and is the worst assessment since June 2020. The latest current conditions score reflects 25% of Americans rating economic conditions as "excellent" or "good" minus 35% rating them "poor." This is the first time since March that Americans' views of current economic conditions have been significantly negative.
  • On the outlook measure, net optimism about the economy fell eight points from -23 to -31, with the latest figure reflecting 32% of adults saying economic conditions are getting better and 63% getting worse. The outlook measure has been gradually souring in recent months, turning significantly negative in July. This component is generally the more volatile of the two indexes, registering -37 in January and -52 in April 2020.

Line graph. Monthly trend from January 2020 to September 2021 in both components of the Gallup Economic Confidence Index. Over this period, the Current Conditions Index has ranged from a high of +54 in January and February of 2020 (before the pandemic) to a low of -20 in April and May of 2020 (near the start of the pandemic). It is currently -10 after falling from -1 in August. The Economic Outlook Index has ranged from +28 in February 2020 to -52 in April 2020 and is currently -31 after falling from -23 in August.

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