Consumer Spending Growth Expectations Spike, while Inflation Expectations Edge Back Up

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March 14, 2022

NEW YORK—The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data today released the February 2022 Survey of Consumer Expectations, which shows an increase in short-and medium-term inflation expectations, reversing some of last month’s sharp declines. Median home price expectations, on the other hand, declined. Year-ahead earnings growth expectations remained unchanged, while expectations about unemployment, perceived job loss, and job finding expectations all improved. Spending growth expectations for the year ahead reached a new series high. Expectations about future credit access deteriorated noticeably.

The main findings from the February 2022 Survey are:

Inflation

  • Median one-year-ahead inflation expectations increased to 6.0% in February from 5.8% in January, matching its November 2021 series’ high. The increase was widespread across age, education, and income groups, but largest for the respondents without a high school degree. After a sharp decline in January, median three-year ahead inflation expectations ticked up by 0.3 percentage point to 3.8%, while remaining below its November and December 2021 levels of 4.2% and 4.0%, respectively. The survey’s measures of disagreement across respondents (the difference between the 75th and 25th percentiles of inflation expectations) remained unchanged at both horizons and well above their pre-pandemic readings.
  • Median inflation uncertainty—or the uncertainty expressed regarding future inflation outcomes—decreased slightly at the one-year horizon and increased at the three-year horizon. Both measures remain elevated relative to their pre-pandemic levels.
  • Median year-ahead home price change expectations decreased to 5.7% from 6.0%. The decline was most pronounced for respondents without a college education.
  • All the commodity price change expectations the survey elicited increased in February. Median expectations about year-ahead price changes for food and gas increased by 3.3 and 1.5 percentage points to 9.2% and 8.8%, respectively. The median year-ahead expected change in the costs of medical care and college education increased to 9.6% and 9.0%, from 9.5% and 7.3%, respectively. The median expected one-year-ahead change in the price of rent increased to 10.1%, from 9.8%.

Labor Market

  • Median one-year-ahead expected earnings growth was unchanged for the second consecutive month at 3.0% in February and remains above its 12-month trailing average of 2.6%.
  • Mean unemployment expectations—or the mean probability that the U.S. unemployment rate will be higher one year from now—decreased to 34.4% from 35.9%. The decline was broad-based across age, education, and income groups.
  • The mean perceived probability of losing one’s job in the next 12 months declined by 0.8 percentage point to 10.8%, reaching a new series low. The mean probability of leaving one’s job voluntarily in the next 12 months also decreased to 18.9% from 19.3%.
  • The mean perceived probability of finding a job (if one’s current job was lost) increased to 56.5% from 55.7%, remaining above its trailing 12-month average of 54.0%. The increase was driven by respondents without a high school degree.

Household Finance

  • The median expected growth in household income fell by 0.1 percentage point to 3.2% in February, but remains above its trailing 12-month average of 3.0%.
  • Median year-ahead household spending growth expectations increased sharply to 6.4% from 5.5% in January, reaching a new series high since the start of the series in June 2013. The increase was broad-based across age, income, and education groups.
  • Expectations about future credit availability deteriorated considerably, with more respondents expecting it will be harder and substantially fewer respondents expecting it will be easier to obtain credit in the year ahead. Perceptions of credit access compared to a year ago also deteriorated, with more (fewer) respondents finding it harder (easier) to obtain credit now than a year ago.
  • The average perceived probability of missing a minimum debt payment over the next three months decreased by 0.8 percentage point to 9.2%, a new series low.
  • The median expectation regarding a year-ahead change in taxes (at current income level) increased slightly to 4.5% from 4.4%.
  • Median year-ahead expected growth in government debt remained unchanged at 11.1%.
  • The mean perceived probability that the average interest rate on saving accounts will be higher 12 months from now increased to 31.3% from 30.5% its highest level since May 2019.
  • Perceptions about households’ current financial situations compared to a year ago deteriorated slightly, with more (fewer) respondents reporting being financially worse (better) off than they were a year ago. Respondents were mixed about their household’s financial situation in the year ahead, with a larger share of respondents expecting their financial situation to deteriorate and also a larger share of 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 decreased by 1.5 percentage points to 37.0%. This is the lowest reading of the series since June 2013.

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, this panel allows the survey to report 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.

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

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

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