Press Release

Medium-Term Inflation Expectations Tick Up in November, while Consumer Spending Growth Expectations Decline Sharply

December 09, 2019

NEW YORK—The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data released the November 2019 Survey of Consumer Expectations, which shows an increase in medium-term inflation expectations. Expectations for three year ahead inflation rebounded from a series low in October, increasing from 2.4% to 2.5%. While remaining optimistic about the labor market, expectations about spending growth declined sharply.

The main findings from the November 2019 Survey are:

Inflation

  • Median inflation expectations increased by 0.1 percentage point at the three-year horizon to 2.5%. It also showed a very small increase (0.02 percentage point) at the one-year horizon, to 2.4% after rounding.
  • Median inflation uncertainty—or the uncertainty expressed regarding future inflation outcomes—declined at both horizons.
  • Median home price change expectations increased by 0.1 percentage point to 3.0%, returning to a level last observed in July. The increase was driven by respondents with lower income (under $50k), and those living in the Midwest and West.
  • The median one-year ahead expected price change in gas, medical care, college education, and rent all fell in November. Notably, the measures for price change in medical care reached a new series’ low at 5.9%.

                     
Labor Market

  • Median one-year ahead expected earnings growth fell 0.1 percentage point to 2.2% in November, below the 12-month trailing average of 2.4%. It is the lowest level since November 2018. The decline was most pronounced among respondents with high school or less education.
  • Mean unemployment expectations—or the mean probability that the U.S. unemployment rate will be higher one year from now—decreased by 2.2 percentage points to 34.6%, below its 12-month trailing average of 37.3%. It is the lowest level since September 2018.
  • The mean perceived probability of losing one’s job in the next 12 months declined from 14.8% in October to 14.4% in November. The mean probability of leaving one’s job voluntarily in the next 12 months also decreased from 22.1% to 21.2%.
  • The mean perceived probability of finding a job (if one’s current job was lost) increased slightly from 58.8% in October to 59.3% in November, just below the 12-month trailing average of 59.8%.

Household Finance

  • Median expected household income growth increased from 2.8% in October to 2.9% in November, moving just above its trailing 12-month average of 2.8%.
  • Median household spending growth expectations declined sharply from 3.3% in October to 2.8% in November. It is at its lowest reading since September 2017, and it is considerably below its trailing 12-month average of 3.3%. The decline was broad based across age, income and education groups.
  • Credit access perceptions and expectations became more dispersed in November, with a greater proportion of respondents reporting looser and tighter credit access conditions.
  • The average perceived probability of missing a minimum debt payment over the next three months decreased from 11.6% to 11.3% in November, falling below its 12-month average of 11.6%.
  • The mean perceived probability that the average interest rate on saving accounts will be higher 12 months from now increased to 27.1% in November, after reaching a series’ low of 25.0% in October. The new reading remains well below its level of 37.3% a year ago.
  • One-year ahead expectations, as well as perceptions about households’ financial situations, improved in November, with higher shares of respondents expecting to be better off financially in the future and reporting to be better off than a year ago.
  • The mean perceived probability that U.S. stock prices will be higher 12 months from now increased to 39.7% in November from 38.8%.

 
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 regarding consumers’ outlooks. 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.

Contact
Shelley Pitterson
(212) 720-2552
shelley.pitterson@ny.frb.org