Press Release

Short-term Inflation Expectations at Lowest Level Since April 2021

December 11, 2023

NEW YORK—The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data today released the November 2023 Survey of Consumer Expectations, which shows that inflation expectations declined at the short-term horizon and remained unchanged at the medium and longer-term horizons. Labor market expectations were mixed. In particular, respondents are less pessimistic about the year-ahead rate of unemployment, but the median year-ahead expected earnings growth declined slightly and the mean perceived probability of losing one’s job increased. Household finance perceptions and expectations were mostly unchanged in November, while credit access perceptions and expectations both improved slightly.

The main findings from the November 2023 Survey are:


  • Median one-year ahead inflation expectations declined by 0.2 percentage point in November to 3.4%. This is the lowest reading since April 2021. Median inflation expectations at the three- and five-year ahead horizons remained unchanged at 3.0% and 2.7%, respectively. The survey’s measure of disagreement across respondents (the difference between the 75th and 25th percentile of inflation expectations) declined at the one-year ahead horizon and ticked up slightly at the three- and five-year ahead horizons.
  • Median inflation uncertainty—or the uncertainty expressed regarding future inflation outcomes—fell at the one-year ahead horizon, increased slightly at the three-year ahead horizon, and remained unchanged at the five-year ahead horizon.
  • Median home price growth expectations were unchanged for the second consecutive month at 3.0%. The series has remained within a narrow range of 2.8% to 3.1% since June 2023.
  • Median year-ahead expected price changes decreased by 0.5 percentage point for gas to 4.5%, 0.2 percentage point for the cost of a college education to 5.8% (the lowest reading since January 2021), 1.1 percentage points for rent to 8.0% (the lowest reading since January 2021), and 0.3 percentage point for food to 5.3%, while it remained flat for medical care at 9.1%.

Labor Market

  • Median one-year ahead expected earnings growth decreased by 0.1 percentage point to 2.7%. In November, the series finally moved out of the 2.8% to 3.0% narrow range in which it had been confined since September 2021. The decline was driven by respondents above the age of 60.
  • Mean unemployment expectations—or the mean probability that the U.S. unemployment rate will be higher one year from now—decreased by 0.2 percentage point to 38.4%, slightly below the series 12-month trailing average of 39.8%.
  • The mean perceived probability of losing one’s job in the next 12 months increased by 0.9 percentage point to 13.6%. The mean probability of leaving one’s job voluntarily in the next 12 months increased by 1.4 percentage points to 19.6%. Both figures are above their series 12-month trailing average of 12.2% and 18.9%, respectively.
  • The mean perceived probability of finding a job (if one’s current job was lost) decreased to 55.2% in November from 56.6%.

Household Finance

  • Median expected growth in household income was unchanged at 3.1% in November, remaining above the series’ pre-pandemic level of 2.7% in February 2020. 
  • Median household spending growth expectations declined by 0.1 percentage point to 5.2% in November. The series has remained stable between 5.2% and 5.4% since June 2023, but it remains well above its February 2020 pre-pandemic level of 3.1%.
  • Perceptions of credit access compared to a year ago improved for the second consecutive month with a smaller (larger) share of respondents reporting that it is harder (easier) to obtain credit today compared to a year ago. Similarly, consumers were more optimistic about future credit access with a decreased share of respondents expecting tighter credit conditions a year from now.
  • The average perceived probability of missing a minimum debt payment over the next three months decreased by 0.2 percentage point to 11.8% in November, a level comparable to those prevailing just before the pandemic.
  • After reaching its lowest reading in three years last month, the median expected year-ahead change in taxes (at current income level) bounced back by 0.3 percentage point to 4.1% in November.
  • Median year-ahead expected growth in government debt increased to 10% in November from 9.8% in October.
  • The mean perceived probability that the average interest rate on saving accounts will be higher in 12 months decreased by 0.8 percentage point to 29.5%.
  • Perceptions about households’ current financial situation were mostly unchanged compared to last month. In contrast, consumers were more optimistic about their year-ahead financial situation with a smaller share expecting to be worse off.
  • The mean perceived probability that U.S. stock prices will be higher 12 months from now rose by 2.3 percentage points to 36.5%.

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, this panel allows us 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 here, the interactive chart guide, and the survey questionnaire.

Mariah Measey
(347) 978-3071 
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