Apr 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

Consumer comfort with returning to normal reaches all-time pandemic high

Data: Investing.com; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Investing.com; Chart: Axios Visuals

Tuesday's strong consumer confidence report from the Conference Board wasn't the only good news about U.S. consumers. Data are beginning to show more Americans are getting more comfortable with returning to regular pre-pandemic activities.

Driving the news: Morning Consult's "Tracking the Return to Normal" series reveals all-time highs in consumer comfort across activities including dining, entertainment, sports and more.

  • 60% of the public now feels comfortable dining out, a record high for the series that began record-keeping in March 2020.
  • 53% of Americans feel comfortable going on vacation, a record since tracking began in April 2020.

Yes, but: Progress may be stalling out, according to the data. Though Morning Consult's surveys on vaccine skepticism have declined for four straight weeks in the United States, progress has stalled, with 34% of respondents saying they won't get vaccinated.

  • And while 46% of respondents say they are ready to go out to a restaurant now, 17% say they will not be ready for two to three months and another 12% say it will be six months or more before they are comfortable dining in a restaurant.

ICYMI: Consumer confidence rose sharply for the second consecutive month in April, up 12.7 points to 121.7, following an 18.6 point increase in March.

  • Economists at Nomura note that the consistent improvement is in line with not only new stimulus measures from the government but also increasingly strong readings on the jobs market and vaccinations.

What they're saying: "We expect those factors to continue to support strong consumer spending over the near-term, although the composition of spending will likely shift towards services as re-opening accelerates," Lewis Alexander, Nomura's U.S. chief economist, says in a note to clients.

  • "The labor market differential — the gap between those reporting jobs 'plentiful' versus 'hard to get' — rose sharply by 16.7 points to 24.7, a significant improvement despite remaining below its pre-pandemic level of roughly 35."

What's next: The strong consumer confidence numbers along with recent drops in initial jobless claims suggest "another very strong month of [nonfarm payrolls] growth and further declines in the unemployment rate," Alexander says.

  • Nomura is expecting U.S. real GDP to increase by 8% quarter over quarter in Q2.
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