More Americans reported losing a job in the past 30 days than reported starting a new job, according to the Consumer Reports Index's employment measure, which dropped back into negative territory this month largely due to the continued decline in the percentage of new job starts.
The Index's employment measure, which compares the percentages of Americans that reported starting a new job with those that reported losing a job in the past 30 days, slipped from 50.5 to to 49.7. And while job loss numbers increased only slightly (from 4.4 to 4.6 percent), job starts registered a sharp decline. For the second straight month, the number of Americans that started a new job (4.0 percent) not only dropped but has also fallen to its lowest level in the past nine months.
"When more than half of Americans are facing a substantial uphill climb, it would be hard to see a boost to confidence in the near term without substantial improvements in employment levels," said Ed Farrell, director of Consumer Insight at the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
The Index's results also show that retail spending is struggling. The past 30-day retail measure has extended its fall to a fifth straight month. The measure now stands at its lowest level since Consumer Reports first measured it in April 2009--falling to 8.9 from 10.6 percent, and from 12.0 percent last year at this time. Planned consumer purchasing over the next 30 days (7.0 percent), reflecting June activity, was also down from 8.3 percent last month, as well as a year ago (9.0 percent).
The Consumer Reports Index's trouble tracker increased to 46.5 from 44.8, indicating a rise in the financial difficulties consumers are facing. While the increase in financial troubles appears minor overall, the experience of those in households earning less than $50,000 points to a severely worsening situation. The trouble tracker for that group rose to 70.4 from 57.7 a month earlier. The disparity among economic classes also deepened. Financial woes among lower-income households (70.4) are nearly three times as high as households earning $100,000 or more (23.6).
Overall, consumer sentiment dropped to 47.5 from 50.6. The decline in sentiment was greatest among those in households earning $100,000 or more. While sentiment among these more-affluent households is still in positive territory at 56.6, it's down from 63.0. Among lower-income households, those earning less than $50,000, sentiment (45.4) remains mired in negative territory (below 50) and is off slightly from 46.7 in May.
"These trends suggest that consumers may continue to pull back their spending habits due to the uncertainty they have about the direction of the economy,"Farrell said.
The Consumer Reports Index report comprises five key measures: the Sentiment Index, the Trouble Tracker Index, the Stress Index, the Retail Index and the Employment Index.
Conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, the Consumer Reports Index, is a monthly telephone and cell phone poll of a nationally representative probability sample of American adults. A total of 1,023 interviews were completed (773 telephone and 250 cell phone) among adults aged 18+. Interviewing took place between May 31 and June 3. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.