The percentage of American adults concerned about tariffs in September was flat compared to August. Sixty-six percent of Americans say they’re at least ‘somewhat concerned’ about the impact of recent trade policies and tariffs on their household expenses.
You could say this is right about down to average pre-pandemic levels of concern over the issue, and it makes sense; Americans at large are expressing rosier forecasts about the future state of the U.S. economy in recent weeks. So, despite continued case surges and deaths from the coronavirus, it appears consumers believe things will get back to normal soon. They have to, right? At least that’s the hope.
However, it’s quite notable that there’s been a month-over-month drop in people who self-report that they ‘haven’t noticed a difference’ in how tariffs have impacted the items they need and buy for their household.
There was a two percentage point increase in both the percentage of adults who say they have noticed a rise in prices, and those who said they are buying less as a result of a price hike, respectively.
While the spike in overall concern seems to be cooling off, as is the doom and gloom economic outlook of consumers, we all must remember that swaths of Americans are still filing for first-time unemployment benefits, to the tune of about 800K the week before last. While down a bit from the week prior, that number seems high and has appeared to also plateau.
Also, consider that 11.7 million Americans were still collecting unemployment benefits as of two weeks ago. While people may have an aggregate of happier outlooks about the economy to come, we’ve seen that this is driven by wealthier Americans. Just like Wall Street, they’ve seemed to have forgotten about the pandemic. Things are not nearly as rosy for lower-income Americans.
Back in the month of May, a time during which Americans were most concerned about tariffs, 74% of people in the under $50K income bracket were concerned about tariffs, and in September that only went down to 70%. However, concern among higher-income households (those bringing in $100K+ annually) went down by 10 percentage points. (Below are September and May 2020 numbers). It’s clear this group, largely unaffected by the pandemic, especially compared to those in lower paying jobs, is driving overall tariff concern.
This is clear when crossing work status by tariff concern. Those who are out of work are the most concerned, but notably those who are still working, but from home, also report high levels of tariff concern.
It’s been a whirlwind year in many more ways than just this one, but the tariff monitor appears to be leveling off for now. Much like the ESI, though, this is driven by wealthy Americans. Those in the U.S. population who are unemployed and largely lower income are still worried about the future.