The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index fell again in October, to its lowest level since March 2009.* It now stands at 39.8 (1985=100), down from 46.4 in September. Overall, the people surveyed have a pretty good sense of where things are and where they’re headed.
Consumers’ appraisal of present-day conditions deteriorated further in October. Those claiming business conditions are “bad” increased to 43.7 percent from 40.5 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “good” decreased to 11.0 percent from 12.1 percent. Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was also less favorable. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” decreased to 3.4 percent from 5.6, however, those saying jobs are “hard to get” decreased to 47.1 percent from 49.4 percent.
Consumers’ short-term outlook, which had improved last month, reversed course in October. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 9.1 percent from 11.8 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen edged down to 21.5 percent from 21.9 percent.
Consumers’ outlook for the job market was slightly more pessimistic. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead edged down to 11.3 percent from 11.9 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs decreased to 27.4 percent from 28.6 percent. The proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes declined to 10.3 percent from 13.5 percent.
That may summarize the overall view but, for those at the very top, things look quite different. As the Fiscal Times demonstrates, the top 1 percent are quite confident of their purchasing power—or, alternatively, they’re going to find ways to show they’re rich until the whole thing comes tumbling down around their baubles.
In the U.S., despite the belt-tightening across most of the country, wealthy Americans are starting to enjoy the good life once again, buying high-status items and services they had cut out of their 2009 and 2010 budgets. Indeed, rich Americans’ expenditures on luxury are set to rise $26.6 billion this year.
* Bloomberg Businessweek explains how the index is constructed.