Press Release

Inflation Expectations Decline in Medium Term, Increase in Short Term

April 11, 2022

NEW YORK—The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Center for Microeconomic Data today released the March 2022 Survey of Consumer Expectations, which shows another increase in short-term inflation expectations, but a decline in medium-term inflation expectations. Home price growth expectations ticked up, while year-ahead spending growth expectations increased to a new series high. Labor market and income growth expectations receded somewhat, and respondents turned less optimistic about their year-ahead household's financial situation.

The main findings from the March 2022 Survey are:

Inflation

  • Median one-year-ahead inflation expectations increased to a new series high of 6.6% from 6.0% in February, while median three-year ahead inflation expectations decreased to 3.7% from 3.8%. The increase in short-term expectations was broad-based across age, education, and income groups. The decline in medium-term expectations was driven by respondents with no college education and with annual household incomes under $50,000. Disagreement across respondents (as measured by the difference between the 75th and 25th percentiles of inflation expectations) increased at both horizons to new series highs.
  • Median inflation uncertainty—or the uncertainty expressed regarding future inflation outcomes—increased at the short-term horizon, reaching a new series high. At the medium-term horizon, median inflation uncertainty remained unchanged at a series high.
  • The median expected change in home prices one year from now increased to 6.0% from 5.7%. The measure, which has been elevated for the past year, remains well above its pre-pandemic reading of 3.0% in February 2020.
  • Expectations about year-ahead price changes were roughly flat for rent (at 10.2%) and medical care (at 9.6%), increased by 0.8 percentage point for gas prices (to 9.6%) and increased by 0.4 percentage point for food prices (to 9.6%). The median one-year-ahead expected change in the cost of a college education decreased by 0.5 percentage point to 8.5%.

Labor Market

  • Median one-year-ahead expected earnings growth remained unchanged at 3.0% in March for the third consecutive month.
  • Mean unemployment expectations—or the mean probability that the U.S. unemployment rate will be higher one year from now—increased by 1.7 percentage points to 36.2%, its highest level since February 2021. The increase was broad based across age, education, and income groups.
  • The mean perceived probability of losing one's job in the next 12 months rose to 11.1% from 10.8%, but remains well below its pre-pandemic reading of 13.8% in February 2020. The mean probability of leaving one's job voluntarily in the next 12 months also increased to 19.2% from 19.0%.
  • The mean perceived probability of finding a job (if one's current job was lost) declined to 55.7% from 56.5%, but remains well above its year-ago reading of 48.7% in March 2021.

Household Finance

  • The median expected growth in household income fell by 0.2 percentage point in March to 3.0%, its lowest level since August 2021.
  • Median year-ahead household spending growth expectations jumped by 1.3 percentage points to 7.7%, a new series high. The increase, the largest month-to-month increase in the series, was broad based but was largest for respondents with a college degree and with annual household incomes above $100,000.
  • Perceptions of credit access compared to a year ago deteriorated in March, with more respondents finding it harder to obtain credit now than a year ago. Expectations about future credit availability deteriorated as well, with more respondents expecting that it will be harder to obtain credit in the year ahead.
  • The average perceived probability of missing a minimum debt payment over the next three months increased by 1.9 percentage points to 11.1%, above its 12-month trailing average of 10.0%.
  • The median expectation regarding a year-ahead change in taxes (at current income level) was unchanged at 4.5%. 
  • Median year-ahead expected growth in government debt decreased 0.4 percentage point to 10.7%, its lowest reading since December 2020.
  • The mean perceived probability that the average interest rate on saving accounts will be higher 12 months from now increased from 31.3% in February to 32.6%, its highest level since March 2019.
  • Perceptions about households' current financial situations compared to a year ago deteriorated in March, with more respondents reporting being financially worse off than they were a year ago. Respondents were also more pessimistic about their household's financial situation in the year ahead, with fewer respondents expecting their financial situation to improve a year from now.
  • The mean perceived probability that U.S. stock prices will be higher 12 months from now increased by 0.3 percentage point to 37.3%.

 
About the Survey of Consumer Expectations

The Survey of Consumer Expectations (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, the panel allows one to observe the changes in expectations and behavior of the same individuals over time. For further information on the SCE, please refer to an overview of the survey methodology, the interactive chart guide, and the survey questionnaire.

Contact
Mariah Measey
(347) 978-3071
Mariah.Measey@ny.frb.org 

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