Press Release

Consumers Indicate Continued Optimism about Job Availability; Inflation Expectations Tick Up

July 08, 2019

NEW YORK – The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data released the June 2019 Survey of Consumer Expectations, which shows an increase in short- and medium- term inflation expectations. Respondents were generally more upbeat about their 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. Consumers’ expectations of an increase in the average interest rate on savings accounts over the next year declined to their lowest level since May 2015.

The main findings from the June 2019 Survey are:

Inflation

  • Median inflation expectations increased by 0.2 percentage points at the one-year horizon and by 0.1 percentage points at the three-year horizon, with both reaching 2.7% in June, after declining for two consecutive months. The increases were fairly broad-based but largest for the lowest income (under $50,000) group.
  • Median inflation uncertainty—or the uncertainty expressed regarding future inflation outcomes—increased at the one-year horizon.
  • Median home price change expectations were stable at 3.0% in June, the seventh consecutive reading at this level.
  • Expectations for changes in the cost of a college education and medical care decreased to 5.3% and 7.4% in June, from 5.9% and 8.0% in May, respectively. The median one-year ahead expected change in gasoline prices decreased to 4.2% in June from 4.7% in May.

Labor Market

  • Median one-year ahead earnings growth expectations were stable at 2.5% in June, equal to its trailing 12-month average.
  • Mean unemployment expectations—or the mean probability that the U.S. unemployment rate will be higher one year from now—decreased slightly to 36.3%, from 36.7% in May.
  • The mean perceived probability of losing one’s job in the next 12 months decreased to 13.5% from 14.7% in May, remaining below its trailing 12-month average of 14.4%. The mean probability of leaving one’s job voluntarily in the next 12 months also decreased to 20.4% from 21.2%, remaining below its trailing 12-month average of 21.6%.  
  • The mean perceived probability of finding a job (if one’s current job was lost) increased to a new series’ high of 63.7%, from its previous high of 61.5% reached in May. The increase was broad-based across age and education groups.

Household Finance

  • Median expected household income growth increased slightly from 2.8% in May to 2.9% in June, moving just above its trailing 12-month average of 2.8%.
  • Median household spending growth expectations decreased from 3.5% in May to 3.3% in June. Spending growth expectations have been volatile and exhibit seasonality.
  • Perceptions of credit access compared to a year ago were largely unchanged while expectations for year-ahead credit availability improved in June.
  • The average perceived probability of missing a minimum debt payment over the next three months declined to 10.6% from 11.5% in May, reaching the lowest level since the start of the series in June 2013.
  • The median expectation regarding year-ahead change in taxes (at current income level) remained unchanged at 2.9%.
  • 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 28.1% in June, continuing its downward trend since October 2018 and reaching its lowest reading since May 2015.
  • One-year ahead expectations as well as perceptions about households’ current financial situations improved in June, with larger shares of respondents expecting to be and reporting to be better off financially.
  • The mean perceived probability that U.S. stock prices will be higher 12 months from now declined to 38.8%, from 40.8% in May. This marks its fourth consecutive decrease and its lowest level since October 2016.
  • Median year-ahead expected growth in government debt increased from 7.0% in May to 8.2% in June.

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
Desmond Lee
(212) 720-2416
desmond.lee@ny.frb.org