March 22, 2018 11:30 AM, EDT

Americans’ Economic Expectations Match Strongest Since 2002

Gary H. Spielvogel/Flickr

Americans’ outlook for the economy climbed in March for a third straight month to match the highest level since 2002, data from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index showed March 22.

Highlights of Consumer Comfort for the Week Ended March 18

• Monthly gauge of economic expectations increased to 56 from 54.5.

• 39% of respondents said economy “getting better,” the biggest share since March 2002 and up from 38% a month earlier; was 30% in December.

• Weekly consumer comfort index advanced to 56.8 from 56.2.

• Personal finances gauge rose to 62.9 last week, the second-highest level since May 2007, from 62.1.

Key Takeaways

Resilient hiring and more take-home pay in the wake of reduced taxes are generating more optimism about the economy. The tight labor market has been keeping weekly consumer comfort elevated as Americans feel more secure in their jobs.

A February surge in payrolls as the jobless rate held at 4.1% signals the labor market still has room to grow before it reaches full employment.

While the pickup in sentiment this year hasn’t been accompanied by stronger household purchases, sustained optimism and faster income growth may allow spending to accelerate in coming months.

Other Details

• The weekly index measuring current views of the national economy improved to 59.7 from 59.1

• Weekly buying climate gauge rose to 47.8 from 47.3.

• Share of respondents who say economy is getting worse decreased to 25%, the lowest since April 2017.

• Economic expectations vary greatly by party identification, with 75% of Republicans seeing improvement compared with 18% of Democrats.

• Consumer comfort among married Americans matched highest since 2000.