Survey reveals U.S. confidence is lowest it's been all year

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Consumers don't live in a vacuum.

So it is not surprising that after months of weak economic reports followed by a partial government shutdown, consumer confidence, as measured in the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey released Friday, is the lowest it has been all year.

Though American shoppers may not be able to recite the latest financial statistics, their sense of the economy remains an important gauge because it can impact consumer spending. And the news they are getting isn't good.

Just this week, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reopened after the Oct. 1 government shutdown, it released a series of reports that showed the economic picture was not bright.

Wages have remained fairly flat, and there is a glut of workers in every industry across the board.

Heidi Shierholz, an economist for the Washington, D.C., research organization Economic Policy Institute, analyzed Thursday's job openings and labor turnover survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report showed that for the first time in nearly five years, there were fewer than three job seekers for every job.

The latest ratio of 2.9 job seekers to every opening is far below the recession's peak of 6.7 job seekers to every job, but well above the 1.1 level from December 2000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated there were 3.9 million job openings in the country on the last business day of August, but still 11.3 million job seekers that month.

That does not include the 2.3 million people who did not look for a job in August, but who have looked for a job in the last year. Those people are classified as "marginally attached" workers.

The ratio would have been even more lopsided, Ms. Shierholz said, if it included the 5 million people in the country who normally would be working or looking for work but have given up trying to get a job. The labor force participation rate has remained at its lowest level in 45 years.

That 5 million includes young people who should have entered the workforce but, given the employment situation, haven't even tried.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey of consumer confidence shows that people do not think the situation is about to get better. Just 25 percent of the households expect their finances to improve in the next year.


Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.

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