The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, February 24, 2021 1:00 am

Vaccine rollout gives consumers more confidence

MATT OTT | Associated Press

U.S. consumer confidence rose again in February as an accelerating COVID-19 vaccine push provides hope for Americans who have lived through a year of unprecedented restrictions.

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 91.3, up from 88.9 in January.

However, despite the improved vaccination rollout, consumers are more optimistic about current conditions than they are about the near future. The present situation index, which is based on consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions, rose to 92 from 85.5 last month.

But the expectations index – based on consumers' near-term outlook for income, business, and labor conditions – ticked down slightly to 90.8 this month from 91.2 in January. That's somewhat surprising to economists, as many experts have predicted that widespread vaccinations and warmer weather could make for a summer of relative normalcy.

“One would imagine that the prospect of vaccines being rolled out to all Americans would boost confidence for the future,” said Jennifer Lee, an economist with BMO Capital Markets. “Not the case this month.”

Lee noted she thought consumer confidence would continue to improve as more people are vaccinated and businesses fully reopen.

The percentage of consumers who said business conditions are “good” increased from 15.8% to 16.5%, while the proportion claiming business conditions are “bad” fell to 39.9% from 42.4%. Consumers' views of the labor market also improved.

The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve during the next six months fell to 31% from 34.1%. Those expecting conditions to worsen, however, also declined.

Consumers' assessment of the job market was also mixed. While fewer of those surveyed said they expected more job opportunities in the coming months, those who thought there would be fewer prospects declined.

Slightly fewer consumers expect their incomes to increase in the next six months, but fewer see their incomes declining.

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