The Consumer

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Dueling indexes

The University of Michigan began its confidence survey in 1946, and the Conference Board followed in 1967. Each survey asks five questions. The Michigan survey emphasizes spending; the board looks more at jobs.

Beige shading=recession. University of Michigan baseline: 1966 = 100. Conference Board baseline: 1985 = 100.

Source: Conference Board, TNS; University of Michigan; National Bureau of Economic Research

Confidence vs. GDP

Confidence generally tracks with gross domestic product, soaring when the economy is strong and hitting bottom near the nadir of recessions.

Beige shading=recession. 1. Numerical change in quarterly Index of Consumer Sentiment vs. year-earlier quarter. 2. Percent change in quarterly real gross domestic product vs. year-earlier quarter (2000 chained dollars, annualized rates).

Source: American Demographics analysis of data from University of Michigan and Bureau of Economic Analysis

Confidence vs. jobs

Confidence is tied closely to the jobs market. The Conference Board gets at this by asking consumers about the availability of jobs in their area.

Beige shading=recession. 1. Civilian unemployment rate. 2. Percent of respondents in Conference Board's survey reporting "jobs hard to get." Source: Conference Board, TNS; Bureau of Labor Statistics

Confidence vs. spending

Confidence is an imprecise predictor of consumer spending, reflecting that spending is tied more to income than attitudes.

Source: University of Michigan; Bureau of Economic Analysis

Advertising Age's American Demographics appears the third Monday of each month. Go to AdAge.com QwikFIND aaq37m to search the American Demographics archives. Send consumer research to bjohnson@crain.com

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