World Economy

Majority Americans Believe Country on Wrong Track

Majority Americans Believe  Country on Wrong Track Majority Americans Believe  Country on Wrong Track

Consumers have been the missing link in the US economic recovery and are likely to remain so absent from a major change in sentiment.

Despite the seemingly endless stream of Wall Street economists who believe the US is about to snap out of its malaise, most Americans think the economy is bad and getting worse, according to several recent surveys, CNBC reported.

One of the more glaring examples of how strong pessimism has become, is the Gallup's US Economic Confidence Index. The measure gauges the difference between respondents who say the economy is improving or declining. The most recent results are not good.

Fully 59% say the economy is "getting worse" against just 37% who say it is "getting better." That gap of 22 percentage points is the worst since August, according to Gallup, which polled 3,542 adults. The index carries a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Those numbers come amid a moribund retail sales climate, with March showing a 0.3% decline, worse than even the modest 0.1% uptick the (Wall) Street had been expecting. Consumer prices showed only modest 0.1% gains across the board, while producer prices were down 0.1%.

Gross domestic product likely grew little if at all in the first quarter, with the Atlanta Fed's latest forecast anticipating a 0.3% increase.

Still, many on Wall Street continue to tout the consumer's pivotal role as the driver of future growth. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, on an earnings call Wednesday, said consumer activity was a key component in the nation's largest bank's ability to beat Wall Street earnings expectations in the first quarter, even though the company's annual profit fell 6.7%.

A gauge called the Money Anxiety Index, which measures uncertainty and financial anxiety through a variety of economic indicators, is at its highest level since September. Also, the Real Clear Politics average of attitudes on the economy shows 66.1% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.

American workers want more cash from their employers, and they would be willing to accept fewer benefits in exchange, according to a new survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Fully a third of the employees responding to EBRI’s 2015 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey would change the current mix of wages and health benefits. The shift may reflect an intensifying desire for real wage growth, EBRI researchers speculated.

The survey, conducted by EBRI and Greenwald & Associates, revealed a long-term trend away from being satisfied with the mix of benefits and wages, toward more preference for fewer health benefits and higher wages.