Economic Sentiment Falls Slightly Following Turbulent Two Weeks

Overall economic sentiment is down slightly in the second 2021 reading of the HPS-Civic Science Economic Sentiment Index (ESI). Following a two-week stretch in which the storming of the U.S. Capitol and delayed vaccine rollouts dominated the headlines, the ESI dropped 0.6 points to 47.7.

Four of the ESI’s five indicators declined over the past two weeks. Falling the most was confidence in personal finances, which dropped 1.5 points to 55.8. Close behind were readings of confidence in finding a new job (down 1.4 points to 39.7) and confidence in making a major purchase (down 1.3 points to 42.0). Bucking the downward trend of the other indicators was confidence in the housing market, which jumped up 2.2 points to 51.2.

The beginning of this two-week stretch was marked by both the U.S. Capitol being breached by rioters seeking to overturn the result of the 2020 election, and news that two Democrats–Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock–were the winners in Georgia’s Senate elections, tipping the makeup of the new Senate in the Democrats’ favor. At the same time, the number of applications for jobless benefits reached a level not seen since March in the week that ended Jan 9. The period also saw the continued acceleration of deaths due to COVID-19, while efforts to roll out the coronavirus vaccine were bogged down by confusion and delays across the country. Some form of forward-looking clarity, however, may have been achieved when President Joe Biden unveiled his plan to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

Although the ESI fell over the course of the last two weeks, the three-day moving average notched a substantial upswing in the closing days of the period. The moving average began on January 6 at 47.2, before dropping to its low of 46.4 on January 12. The average then gradually increased, peaking at 49.9 on January 18, and closed out at 49.2 on January 19.

The next release of the ESI will be Wednesday, February 2, 2021.