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Let's Dig in to the American Economy

The current economic climate in America is tough. With countless companies laying off workers, major banks collapsing, and consumers taking cost-saving into their own hands, the economic outlook feels bleak. We wanted to know how this landscape translates to the everyday lives of the American public.

Dig Insights & Benzinga have been tracking the attitudes and emotions of the general public towards the economy with our Economic Sentiment Tracker. Completing the third wave of research in March 2023, with previous waves in May and November 2022, the tracker is a useful tool for companies looking to take a pulse on economic sentiment for their own business needs.

Reviewing the data from the March 2023 wave, we found five distinct themes:

  1. Declining Consumer Optimism and Increasing Disapproval

  2. Pessimistic Economic Outlook

  3. Inflation and Financial Anxieties

  4. Deteriorating Personal Financial Situation

  5. Adaptation and Cost-Saving Measures

The key statistics

  • Half of Americans think the economy is in bad shape, with only a third believing it will improve in the next 6 months.

  • Almost half (49%) of Americans are worried about job security.

  • Most Americans are using cost-saving measures to help reduce their bills, with 79% using coupons and promotions on groceries, and 67% are cutting back on fresh food like meat and vegetables.

  • 4-in-10 say they accumulate more debt trying to keep up with bills.

Declining Consumer Optimism and Increasing Disapproval

Most Americans pay attention to news about the economy and, for many, optimism is giving way to feelings of disapproval and sadness. Only 6% of Americans do not pay attention to news about the economy at all.

Q. How much do you pay attention to news about economy?

While most Americans pay attention to economic news, only one in ten respondents indicated that they felt hopeful about their own financial situation. Furthermore, 18% of respondents indicated that they feel sad about their personal financial situation; up from 15% in November 2022.

An image showing sentiment over time about personal financial situation. The data is measured in 3 waves: May 2022, November 2022 and March 2023. People who feel sad about their personal financial situation represent 15%, 15%, and 18% respectively. Optimistic is 14%, 18% and 14%. Hope is 11%, 13% and 12%

Pessimistic Economic Outlook

Half of Americans think the economy is in bad shape. With only a third believing it will improve in the next 6 months, with just as many thinking it will get worse.

Positive perceptions of the economic landscape in the US haven’t changed since November 2022, with 28% of Americans considering the economy to be in a very/somewhat good shape. Negative perception of the economy dropped slightly, with 50% of respondents believing it was in a very/somewhat bad state, down from 54% of respondents in November 2022.

Q. In your opinion, how would you describe the economy overall?

The slight decrease in negative perception continues when thinking about economic recovery, with 34% of Americans sharing that they expect the economy to be much/somewhat worse in the next six months; down two points from November 2022.

Q. Six months from now, do you think the economy will be compared to today?

Inflation and Financial Anxieties

The worry about personal financial situations reflects general anxiety around inflation, recession, everyday living costs, and job security. 84% of Americans are extremely/somewhat worried about inflation on things like food and utilities, and 81% are extremely/somewhat worried that the US may enter an economic recession.

Q. How worried are you about the following issues affecting you personally in the next 12 months? (% Extremely/somewhat worried)

Almost half of the respondents (49%) were extremely/somewhat worried about their job security in a landscape of layoffs and closing businesses, with only 38% of people confident in their ability to find a new job quickly that matches their current income level.

Q. How much do you agree or disagree with this statement: "I could quickly find a new job at my current income"?

Deteriorating Personal Financial Situation

The pessimistic economic outlook extends beyond the wider economy and into personal finances. The percentage of Americans who feel that their own financial situation was somewhat/very good dropped almost 7 points since November 2022. Overall, a third of Americans (33%) thought their personal financial situation was somewhat or very bad, up almost five points from November 2022.

Q. How would you describe your personal financial situation?

When asked about paying bills, most respondents shared that they were able to pay bills currently (73%, down three points since November 2022) however, 4 in 10 Americans say paying bills is actually causing them to rack up debt. Only 43% of people shared that they are not accumulating debt, down from 49% when we first asked in May 2022.

Q. How much do you agree or disagree with this statement: "I am accumulating more debt"?

If an extra $500 suddenly appeared in their lives, only 1-in-10 Americans would use their windfall for something fun, with 4-in-10 sharing that they would put the unexpected money towards debts or bills.

Q. If an extra $500 suddenly appeared in your pocket, would you…?

Adaptation and Cost-Saving Measures

The worries that Americans face around their personal financial situation are presenting themselves in spending habits. When asked how they are adapting to increasing costs, the majority of respondents shared that they are already taking cost-saving measures for everyday purchases.

When it comes to grocery shopping, 79% of Americans are already using coupons and promotions, and 74% of people are buying less expensive or store brands to reduce their shopping bill. As for eating out, 76% of respondents are trying new recipes at home instead of going out to restaurants. Meal kits are also being used as a substitute for restaurant dinners for 60% of those we surveyed.

Q. We are going to show you some things that people are doing. If you see something you are currently doing, swipe right or click the ✓. If see something you are not currently doing, swipe left or click the 'X'.

Cancelling subscriptions is a popular way for consumers to save money, with 56% of Americans cancelling their entertainment subscriptions to places like Spotify, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video. If forced to pick one subscription to keep and the rest to stop, 29% of people chose to keep their Netflix subscription, and only 7% chose to keep Disney+.

Q.If you could have just one streaming service, which would it be?

So what are the key learnings?

The current economic environment has led Americans to perceive an uncertain and pessimistic future. Personal financial situations are deteriorating, causing increased anxiety over inflation, recession, and job security. To adapt, consumers are employing various cost-saving measures, such as using coupons, cooking at home, and canceling subscriptions.

Read the full US report, or browse the Canadian findings:

TLDR: Looking for a more condensed version that touches on the main points?

Want to see the data for yourself?