When President Trump first took the helms, he promised a robust economic recovery. If 2017 was the sole barometer, most metrics would indicate that the controversial leader was spot-on with his bravado. The Dow Jones index gained over 24%, delighting investors to no end. Moreover, unemployment hit multi-year lows.
The latter metric is particularly important to the economic recovery, as that tells the true tale of our financial machinery. Employment statistics also tie into consumer confidence, and the general state of the consumer market. Simply put, if people don’t have robust jobs with upside growth opportunities, workers won’t spend money, stymieing what would otherwise be a return to American greatness.
While unemployment remains extremely low compared to the heights seen during the Great Recession, one metric is steadily becoming an outlier: consumer confidence.
Presently, the consumer market appears bolstered by the Trump administration. Not only is unemployment down across major metropolitan areas, employers have aggressively ramped-up their recruitment activities. If you’re a skilled specialist, or a highly-valued worker-bee, you won’t have trouble finding opportunities in this “employee’s market.”
That said, we also subtle and not-so-subtle clues that not all is well with the economic recovery and subsequent consumer confidence. For instance, it is near impossible in some locales to qualify for a mortgage, unless you’re willing to put down close to half of the mortgage value.
Rising interest rates from multi-decade lows further de-incentivize real-estate purchases, while preventing others from making smaller acquisitions, such as automobiles. Small businesses too find getting off the ground extraordinarily difficult when lenders are charging higher rates for their loans.
We’re seeing undeniable evidence that these details are negatively impacting consumer confidence. For instance, the University of Michigan’s consumer-sentiment index averaged 5.51% in annual growth from 2010 through 2015. But since 2016 onwards, the average has slipped to just over 2%.
Granted, we’d expect to see consumer confidence jump the highest following the Great Recession’s devastating influence on unemployment and other key economic benchmarks. But for the American consumer market to slip so dramatically following a robust, multi-year recovery is strange, to say the least. With more money in their pockets, we’d expect further nominal spending, not less.
And while Americans are breaking out their wallet, my point is that they’re not doing so decisively. Honestly, what is the point of purchasing something if you can’t acquire meaningful acquisitions because you’re denied a loan?
What we have here is the freedom to stay economic slaves. Yes, we have more money, and more jobs, but if no one can buy a home, or save for their children’s college education, what do they really have? So enjoy the “bullish” consumer market while it lasts, because the situation can’t sustain itself.