As noted in a post earlier today, Consumer Confidence for the month of September came in slightly weaker than expected. Within each month’s report, there are a number of ways confidence levels are broken out which always uncovers some interesting trends. Two of the most interesting ways to track sentiment is by looking at both income and age.
Starting with income levels, there was a real disparity in month/month changes in September. While lower income and higher income consumers saw their confidence levels increase (lower income) or stay steady (upper income), confidence among consumers with incomes of between $35K and $50K plummetted to its lowest level since last October. A lot of President Trump’s base comes from this income group, so if their confidence levels continue to decline, it could spell further trouble for the President in the polls.
Looking at confidence levels by age shows an even more fascinating move. While overall confidence levels showed a slight decline this month, based on age, they were all over the map. Among consumers over the age of 55, the overall confidence level showed a slight decline but still remains right near its highs of the cycle. Middle-aged consumers (aged 35-54), however, saw an increase in optimism with overall confidence increasing from 122 up to 128.2. Where we saw the largest move in confidence, though, was among consumers under the age of 35. In this cohort, overall confidence fell from 126.6 down to 120.9.
Looking at the chart above, you can see that confidence among younger consumers is almost always greater than older consumers. Looking more closely, though, you can see that in this month’s report middle-aged consumers actually have a higher level of confidence than younger consumers. Looking back over time, it’s uncommon enough that you see this type of reversal, but the magnitude of the current reversal has never been greater. As shown, going back to 1980, the negative 7.1 point spread in confidence among younger consumers (under 35) and middle-aged consumers (35-54) has never been wider. Alas, it was only a matter of time before the idea of living in mom and dad’s basement watching Netflix and piggybacking off their cell phone family plans lost some of its luster.
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