September’s Consumer Reports Index, a measure of overall consumer financial health, showed signs that sentiment is improving after plummeting to its lowest level in nearly two years. But the poor job market is making the recovery a grueling process.
The Sentiment Index, one of five key indices that make up the overall index, rose to 48.8, up from 43.4 in August. The figure represents the percentage of people saying they were financially better off versus worse off than they were a year ago.
The Consumer Reports Trouble Tracker, a gauge of the breadth and depth of financial difficulties among American households, dropped 15.3 points to 45.3 in September, as consumers reported they faced fewer financial difficulties, including the inability to pay for health care, mortgage payments, and other bills. While the Northeast states saw a rise in financial difficulties, the North Central, South and Western regions showed a large decline. “While the overall Trouble Tracker showed a large swing in the right direction, that’s just a snapshot of the big picture,” said Ed Farrell, director of the Consumer Reports National Research Center. “Households that earn less than $50,000 a year, which represent nearly half of the population, continue to have trouble finding new jobs, paying bills, and affording health care.”
And the employment numbers remains weak. The Employment Index was virtually unchanged from last month, reflecting an economy that is shedding more jobs than it’s creating. The underlying problem: anemic job creation. This month, the number of Americans who started a new job in the past 30 days was at its lowest level since March 2010. “Weak employment growth is the number one issue facing Americans, and continued improvement in sentiment and sustained declines in financial difficulties faced by consumers hinges on getting Americans back to work.” said Farrell.
The retail indicators tracking recent and planned spending declined after moving in a positive direction in August. The Past 30-Day Retail Index registered a 10-month low.
The Consumer Reports Index, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, is a monthly telephone and cell phone poll of a nationally representative probability sample of American adults. A total of 1,036 interviews were completed (786 telephone and 250 cell phone) among adults aged 18 and older. Interviewing took place between August 25 and 27. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.