Americans are getting nervous.
The University of Michigan’s survey of consumer sentiment for January dropped by 7.7% from the previous month, hitting its lowest level since President Donald Trump took office.
Consumers’ expectations for the future were particularly dark, dropping by 10 points from December in the report, released Friday.
Most measures suggest the economy remains healthy — industrial production surged by 1.1% in December, for example, fueled by auto manufacturing. But rising signs of a global slowdown stemming from Trump’s trade war, coupled with the seemingly endless turmoil in Washington, have created the widespread impression that the nearly 10-year-long expansion may be running out of steam.
“The loss was due to a host of issues including the partial government shutdown, the impact of tariffs, instabilities in financial markets, the global slowdown, and the lack of clarity about monetary policies,” Michigan’s analysts wrote. “Aside from the direct economic impact from these various issues on the economy, the indirect effect meant that half of all consumers believed that these events would have a negative impact on Trump’s ability to focus on economic growth.”
A dive in consumer expectations may negatively impact consumer spending, which has been robust in recent months — but it will be impossible to know whether that’s happening until the government reopens, since the statistics are published by the now-shuttered Bureau of Economic Analysis. Also going unpublished: numbers on residential construction, international trade, and retail sales.
Another closely watched indicator of how Americans are feeling, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index, has fallen slightly for the past two months. Its January reading is due on the 29th.
The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, released on Thursday, reflected a “less optimistic” attitude from businesses in the face of price increases caused by new tariffs and rising interest rates.