A leading measure of U.S. consumer sentiment is at a 10-year low, the University of Michigan, which assembles the data, reported in a preliminary release.
The August index was 70.2, down 11 points from the July figure and the lowest number since the number hit 69.9 in December 2011.
Each monthly survey is based on telephone interviews with members of at least 500 households, according to the report’s authors, and reflects the answers to questions about personal financial conditions, the general economy in the near term and the general economy in the long term. The numerical figure is a function of the number of questions participants answer favorably and the number they answer unfavorably.
“The losses in early August were widespread across income, age and education subgroups and observed across all regions,” Chief Economist Richard Curtin said in remarks issued alongside the preliminary results. “Moreover, the [losses] covered all aspects of the economy, from personal finances to prospects for the economy, including inflation and unemployment.”
Curtin continued: “There is little doubt that the pandemic’s resurgence due to the delta variant has been met with a mixture of reason and emotion. Consumers have correctly reasoned that the economy’s performance will be diminished over the next several months, but the extraordinary surge in negative economic assessments also reflects an emotional response, mainly from dashed hopes that the pandemic would soon end.”
Preliminary data is released each mid-month, and final data near each month’s end.
The August data varied starkly according to the political affiliation of survey respondents, the data showed. Self-identified Democrats averaged 93.8, independents averaged 67.3 and Republicans averaged 46.7.
The latest data comes just two months after June figures indicated a strong positive response from survey participants.
Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.