NEW YORK—The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data today released the January 2024 Survey of Consumer Expectations, which shows improvements in households’ perceptions and expectations of their financial conditions and credit availability. Inflation expectations remained unchanged at the short- and longer-term horizons and declined slightly at the medium-term horizon. Labor market expectations were mixed.
The main findings from the January 2024 Survey are:
- Median inflation expectations remained unchanged at the one- and five-year ahead horizons in January, at 3.0% and 2.5%, respectively. Median inflation expectations at the three-year ahead horizon declined to 2.4% from 2.6%. The survey’s measure of disagreement across respondents (the difference between the 75th and 25th percentile of inflation expectations) increased at the one-year ahead and five-year ahead horizons and decreased at the three-year horizon.
- Median inflation uncertainty—or the uncertainty expressed regarding future inflation outcomes—increased slightly at all three horizons.
- Median home price growth expectations were unchanged for the fourth consecutive month at 3.0%.
- Median year-ahead expected price changes declined for all goods tracked in the survey, falling by 0.3 percentage point for gas to 4.2%, by 0.1 percentage point for food to 4.9%, by 0.9 percentage point for rent to 6.4%, by 0.5 percentage point for medical care to 8.6%, and by 0.4 percentage point for the cost of a college education to 5.9%. The reading for the expected price change of gas is the lowest since December 2022, while those for food and rent were the lowest since March 2020 and December 2020, respectively.
- Median one-year ahead expected earnings growth increased by 0.3 percentage point to 2.8%, returning to the narrow range of 2.8% to 3.0% seen between September 2021 and October 2023. The increase in January was driven by respondents above the age of 40 and without a college degree.
- Mean unemployment expectations—or the mean probability that the U.S. unemployment rate will be higher one year from now—increased marginally to 37.2% from 37.0% in December, remaining below the series 12-month trailing average of 39.2%.
- The mean perceived probability of losing one’s job in the next 12 months decreased by 1.6 percentage points to 11.8%. The mean probability of leaving one’s job voluntarily in the next 12 months also declined, to 17.7% from 20.4% in December. Both readings are below the series 12-month trailing averages.
- The mean perceived probability of finding a job if one’s current job was lost decreased by 1.7 percentage points to 54.2%, its lowest reading since June 2021.
- Median expected growth in household income increased by 0.1 percentage point to 3.1% in January, remaining above its pre-pandemic February 2020 level of 2.7%.
- Median household spending growth expectations were unchanged at 5.0%. The series remains well above its February 2020 level of 3.1%.
- Perceptions of credit access compared to a year ago improved notably with a decreased share of respondents reporting that it is more difficult to obtain credit now than a year ago, and a larger share reporting that it is now easier to do so. Similarly, expectations about future credit access also improved 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 0.3 percentage point to 12.1%, a level comparable to those prevailing just before the pandemic.
- The median expected year-ahead change in taxes at current income level declined by 0.2 percentage point to 3.9%.
- Median year-ahead expected growth in government debt decreased to 8.9% from 9.4%.
- The mean perceived probability that the average interest rate on saving accounts will be higher in 12 months decreased by 0.4 percentage point to 25.5%, its fourth consecutive monthly decline.
- Perceptions about households’ current financial situations improved in January with more respondents reporting being better off than a year ago and fewer respondents reporting being worse off. Year-ahead expectations also improved with a smaller share of respondents expecting to be worse off and a larger share of respondents expecting to be better off a year from now. The percentage of respondents expecting to be financially the same or better off 12 months from now is 76.5%, its highest level since September 2021.
- The mean perceived probability that U.S. stock prices will be higher 12 months from now increased by 0.8 percentage points to 37.5%, its highest level since April 2022.
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.