Press Release

Consumers’ Expectations Across Several Household Finance Measures Improve in November

December 11, 2017

NEW YORK—The New York Fed's Center for Microeconomic Data today released the  November 2017 Survey of Consumer Expectations which shows an increase in wage growth expectations and a decline in unemployment expectations. Households' expectations about both income and spending growth improved considerably. Expectations of year-ahead growth in government debt increased sharply.

The main findings from the November 2017 Survey are:

Inflation

  • Median inflation expectations were unchanged at both the three-year (at 2.8%), and the one-year (at 2.6%) horizons.
  • Median inflation uncertainty—or the uncertainty expressed by respondents regarding future inflation outcomes—declined to series' lows at both horizons.
  • Median home price change expectations increased from 3.0% in October to 3.3% in November, exceeding its trailing 12-month average of 3.2%. Home price change uncertainty remained flat.
  • The median one-year ahead expected gasoline price change increased from 3.8% in October to 4.3% in November. Expectations for a change in the cost of college education increased from 6.6% to 8.0%, respectively.

Labor Market

  • Median one-year ahead earnings growth expectations rebounded from 2.1% in October to 2.6% in November, back to its level from July of this year. The increase was driven by respondents with less than a college education.   
  • Mean unemployment expectations—or the mean probability that the U.S. unemployment rate will be higher one year from now—retreated from 36.0% in October to 33.7% in November.
  • Both the mean perceived probability of losing one's job in the next 12 months and the mean probability of leaving one's job voluntarily in the next 12 months declined, from 15.3% to 13.5%, and 23.1% to 21.5%, respectively. The decline in the likelihood of job loss was broad-based across education and income groups, while the decrease in the likelihood of a voluntary departure was driven by those with incomes above $50,000.   
  • The mean perceived probability of finding a job (if one's current job was lost) increased from 57.7% to 60.1%, remaining well above its trailing 12-month average of 57.1%.

Household Finance

  • Median expected household income growth increased from 2.6% in October to 3.0% in November, its second consecutive rise after its sharp drop this September and a new series' high. The increase was broad-based across age, income and education groups.
  • Median household spending growth expectations improved from 2.8% in October to 3.6% in November, reaching a level well above the trailing 12-month average of 3.1%. The increase was broad-based across education and income groups.
  • The perceived change in credit availability compared to a year ago improved slightly in November, while expectations for year-ahead credit availability became slightly more polarized.
  • The average perceived probability of missing a minimum debt payment over the next three months decreased from 12.8 % in October to 12.5% in November.
  • The median expectation regarding year-ahead change in taxes (at current income level) remained flat at 2.3%.
  • The mean perceived probability that the average interest rate on saving accounts will be higher 12 months from now than it is today rose from 32.9% in October to 34% in November.
  • One-year-ahead expectations of the household's financial situation improved somewhat, with 42.2% of respondents expecting to be better off financially, compared to 40.9% in October and 37.7% a year ago.
  • The mean perceived probability that U.S. stock prices will be higher 12 months from now than they are today declined from 42.9% in October to 42.6% in November, slightly below its trailing 12-month average of 43.4%.
  • Median year-ahead expected growth in government debt increased sharply from 5.9% in October to 7.8% in November, a level not seen since November 2015.  

About the Survey of Consumer Expectations

The SCE contains information about how consumers expect overall inflation and prices for food, gas, housing and education to behave. It also provides insight into Americans' views about job prospects and earnings growth and their expectations about future spending and access to credit. The SCE also provides measures of uncertainty in expectations for the main outcomes of interest. Expectations are also available by age, geography, income, education and numeracy.

The SCE is a nationally representative, internet-based survey of a rotating panel of approximately 1,300 household heads. Respondents participate in the panel for up to twelve months, with a roughly equal number rotating in and out of the panel each month. Unlike comparable surveys based on repeated cross-sections with a different set of respondents in each wave, our panel allows us to observe the changes in expectations and behavior of the same individuals over time.

The survey is conducted on our behalf by The Demand Institute, a non-profit organization jointly operated by The Conference Board and Nielsen. The sampling frame for the SCE is based on that used for The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Survey (CCS). Respondents to the CCS, itself based on a representative national sample drawn from mailing addresses, are invited to join the SCE internet panel.