Press Release

April Survey of Consumer Expectations Shows a Dip in Consumers’ Inflation Expectations

May 13, 2019

NEW YORK – The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data released the April 2019 Survey of Consumer Expectations, which shows a decline in short- and medium- term inflation expectations. Home price change expectations remained stable at their recent low level. However, respondents were more optimistic about their households’ overall financial situation and about the labor market, with expectations about the U.S. unemployment rate, finding a job, and losing one’s job all improving.

The main findings from the April 2019 Survey are:

Inflation

  • Median inflation expectations declined by 0.2 percentage points at both the one-year and three-year horizon, to 2.6% and 2.7% in April respectively, their lowest readings since late 2017. The declines were broad-based across income groups.
  • Median inflation uncertainty—or the uncertainty expressed regarding future inflation outcomes—also declined at the one-year and three-year horizons.
  • Median home price change expectations were stable at 3.0% in April, the fifth consecutive reading at this level.
  • Expectations for changes in the cost of a college education and medical care increased to 7.2% and 7.8% in April, from 5.8% and 7.5% in March, respectively. The median one-year ahead expected change in gasoline prices increased to 4.9% in April from 4.7% in March.

Labor Market

  • Median one-year ahead earnings growth expectations declined to 2.4% in April, from 2.6% in March, falling below its trailing 12-month average of 2.5%. The decline was largest among those with lower household incomes (below $50,000).
  • Mean unemployment expectations—or the mean probability that the U.S. unemployment rate will be higher one year from now—decreased 1.5 percentage points in April, to 35.7%, and is now 4.9 percentage points below its  almost 5-year high reached in January. The decrease was broad-based across education and income groups.
  • The mean perceived probability of losing one’s job in the next 12 months decreased to 13.6%, from 14.3% in March, moving below the trailing 12-month average of 14.3%. The mean probability of leaving one’s job voluntarily in the next 12 months also decreased to 20.3% from 21.8%, falling below the trailing 12-month average of 21.6%.  
  • The mean perceived probability of finding a job (if one’s current job was lost) increased slightly to 59.3%, from 58.6% in March, remaining within the narrow 57.1 to 60.1% range observed since June 2017.  

Household Finance

  • Median expected household income growth increased slightly from 2.8% in March to 2.9% in April, moving just above its trailing 12-month average of 2.8%.
  • Median household spending growth expectations increased from 3.1% in March to 3.3% in April. Spending growth expectations have been volatile and exhibit seasonality.
  • Perceptions of credit access compared to a year ago as well as expectations for year-ahead credit availability were largely unchanged in April.
  • The average perceived probability of missing a minimum debt payment over the next three months declined to 11.1% from 11.6% in March, remaining below its trailing 12-month average of 12.1%.
  • The median expectation regarding year-ahead change in taxes (at current income level) rose slightly, to 2.9%, which is the highest reading since October 2016.
  • The mean perceived probability that the average interest rate on saving accounts will be higher 12 months from now than it is today decreased to 32.2% in April, continuing its downward trend since October 2018 and reaching its lowest reading since October 2016.
  • One-year ahead expectations as well as perceptions about households’ current financial situations improved in April, with larger shares of respondents expecting to be and feeling better off financially.
  • The mean perceived probability that U.S. stock prices will be higher 12 months from now declined slightly to 41.0%, from 41.4% in March.
  • Median year-ahead expected growth in government debt declined from 8.8% in March to 7.5% in April.

About the Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE)
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 12 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.

Contact
Betsy Bourassa
(212) 720-6885
betsy.bourassa@ny.frb.org