This post is the second installment of the U.S. Economy and Commercial Real Estate Markets series presented by Mark Cypert at the Encore Wealth Breakfast on 12.12.12.
Last week I reviewed the fiscal cliff and discussed what the U.S. economy would look in the coming year like given a variety of possible scenarios. Today I will look at consumer confidence, the second part of the equation when determining economic outlook. My third and final installment, on understanding unemployment, will follow.
Loosely defined, consumer confidence represents how buyers feel about the current and future state of the economy. Because consumer confidence impacts consumer expenditures, which account for approximately 70% of total U.S. economic output as measured by GDP, a high amount of consumer confidence represents a positive relationship with economic growth. While growth may be occurring at a promising and steady rate, the large drop in consumer confidence that occurred during the recession makes the climb back up to “normal” levels a slow and steady one. Though consumer sentiment has trended upward since 2009, it remains below pre-recession levels due to a combination of high unemployment rate, a housing bust, the financial crisis, and continued fiscal uncertainty.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2012 saw 5 million workers be unemployed for 26 weeks or more. Though this is generally trending downwards, the number of unemployed people remains very high. As an integral component to consumer confidence, unemployment rates must be reduced in a drastic manner to boost confidence. (This discussion on unemployment is by no means exhaustive, and will be analyzed in greater detail in the following blog post.)
U.S. home prices, another substantial piece of the consumer confidence puzzle, tell a similar story. Currently, U.S. home prices are 30.9% below their peak 2007 values and, adjusting for inflation, home values have reverted back to the levels of 1999-2001. While this too may seem as a relatively bleak depiction of the housing market, it is important to remember that these indicators are trending in a positive direction in light of the damage done by the great recession.