Consumers Start Feeling More Comfortable

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(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose Thursday for the first time in 10 weeks — ticking up to 35.5 from 34.7. This sliver of positivity is set against the depressing, if not unexpected, fact that the index is down 27.5 points from mid-March, and 31.8 points from a two-decade peak in January. 

A closer look at the data reveals interesting differences in reported comfort between men and women; Republicans and Democrats; and those who didn't graduate from high school and those with a college degree or higher. Curiously, there is little difference between age groups. 

One sign that relationships may not be thriving in lockdown comes from the comfort gap between the married and the single. In May 2019, this gap was 14.1 points, with married people feeling more comfortable; it now stands at just 3.3, with a significant decline for married people.

Although the chasm between the most and least comfortable groups has significantly narrowed as a result of Covid-19, it remains the case that the happiest U.S. consumers are white, Republican, college-educated men who have full-time jobs, own their own homes and enjoy household incomes of over $100,000. Plus ça change.

Consumers Start Feeling More Comfortable

The index is based on a weekly, random-sample national phone survey that asks respondents to rate the economy, the buying climateand their personal finances as excellent, good, not so goodor poor.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Ben Schott is a Bloomberg Opinion visual columnist. He created the Schott’s Original Miscellany and Schott’s Almanac series, and writes for newspapers and magazines around the world.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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