Consumers Feel Glum About the Economy: The Kiplinger Letter

Surveys show that consumers feel glum and wary about what comes next, despite their uptick in spending.

To help you understand what is going on with the economy and what we expect to happen in the future, our highly experienced Kiplinger Letter team will keep you abreast of the latest developments and forecasts (Get a free issue of The Kiplinger Letter or subscribe). You'll get all the latest news first by subscribing, but we will publish many (but not all) of the forecasts a few days afterward online. Here’s the latest…

Consumers feel glum and pessimistic about the economy surveys, including the December data from the University of Michigan’s survey of consumers, show. But they’re spending as if they feel pretty good. Why the disconnect? For starters, the economic disruptions of recent years. First, pandemic lockdowns that crashed the economy and then soaring inflation have likely left many people feeling uncertain and wary about what comes next. 

Also, bad news headlines and political polarization may be leading consumers to feel that the overall outlook is bad, even if their own finances aren’t so dire. If so, the Conference Board’s reading on consumer sentiment may gradually trend higher than the University of Michigan’s survey, since the former poll asks more questions about a respondent’s personal situation.

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David Payne
Staff Economist, The Kiplinger Letter

David is both staff economist and reporter for The Kiplinger Letter, overseeing Kiplinger forecasts for the U.S. and world economies. Previously, he was senior principal economist in the Center for Forecasting and Modeling at IHS/GlobalInsight, and an economist in the Chief Economist's Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce. David has co-written weekly reports on economic conditions since 1992, and has forecasted GDP and its components since 1995, beating the Blue Chip Indicators forecasts two-thirds of the time. David is a Certified Business Economist as recognized by the National Association for Business Economics. He has two master's degrees and is ABD in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.