The latest reading of the ESI showed small signs of a rebound in terms of Americans’ confidence in the economy, jobs, major purchases, and other indicators six months from now. Consider that, as the last ESI reading was the lowest the index has ever observed, it was a low bar to clear.
Still, Americans are showing a sliver of hope, even if only a little. Perhaps news of imminent or already deposited stimulus checks have made consumers a little more optimistic about their personal financial situation in the months to come. Or maybe those who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic are starting to see unemployment benefits roll in.
As of the week of April 5, those ‘not concerned’ with their job security have just about eclipsed those ‘very’ and ‘somewhat’ concerned since it started increasing the prior week.
With the April 16 jobs report bringing the total number of unemployment claims to about 22 million in the past four weeks, it will be interesting to see how the confidence in the labor market pans out next reading. As the Trump administration is set to roll out new national social-distancing guidelines this week, that will have a huge impact as well.
According to CivicScience tracking data, the number of Americans employed pre-pandemic who have since lost their jobs increased drastically from March to April. Those reporting they were ‘working as usual’ decreased by nearly 10 percentage points.
When looking at the numbers on a weekly grain, a note that the biggest changes came mid to late March in terms of Americans reporting job loss, reduction of hours, etc. So perhaps in the April 1-14 ESI reading, the bulk of Americans who lost their jobs had lost them in March, and those still working in April feel confident that they can hang on to their job. And, perhaps in the minds of those who lost their jobs, things can only get better from here.
The slight shift in optimism shown by the ESI indicator tracking ‘Over the next 6 months, do you think it will become easier or more difficult to find a new job?’ could be driven increased optimism across all areas of job impact, but most notably among those who have lost their job.
In the current reading’s time frame (April 1-14), 21% of those who have lost their jobs report they believe it will become easier to find a new job six months from now. The prior reading showed only 13% of those without work due to the coronavirus saying the same. This increase of optimism for the future among the unemployed is telling.
How long will we go on like this?
We’re observing that Americans’ own personal projections for how long the effects of the coronavirus will last align with the overall U.S. economic outlook. Those who think that this will last 4 months or more have the most pessimistic outlook on the economy six months from now.
What’s also interesting about the ‘How long’ survey is the percentage of people who say this will last 4+ months have increased week-over-week. We’re tracking that and will report out the numbers next week. If they don’t even out, it could be an indicator that people are, for reasons of acceptance, thinking this thing will just go on indefinitely and maybe adapt their lives to the ‘new normal’.