Consumer confidence tumbles in August

Alberta had been recovering the fastest across regions so far, with the smallest gap (17.9 points) between its August index and its pre-pandemic index

Consumer confidence in Canada tumbled in August as coronavirus cases were on the rise, according to a report released Wednesday by the Conference Board of Canada.

The report said the Index of Consumer Confidence declined by 4.1 points to 78.4, reversing three consecutive months of increase.

“This month’s decline pushed the index to 42.2 points below its pre-pandemic level. Mounting concerns about current finances and future employment left Canadians more cautious about spending on big-ticket items. Ontario was the only province to gain consumer confidence in August. In all other regions, the confidence index declined for the first time since May. Both Quebec’s and British Columbia’s indexes dropped by double digits this month,” said the report.

“Without a clear timeline on the duration of the pandemic, consumers are concerned about future employment for the second consecutive month. Moreover, survey respondents started to feel the pain of the recession on their finances this month. The share of positive responses to the question on current finances declined for the first time since May.

“As consumers grow more worried, they are more cautious with their discretionary spending. More than 53 per cent of consumers believe now is a bad time for a major purchase. This matches the level of pessimism seen during the 2008 financial crisis.”

The following four questions were asked in the survey:

  1. Are your finances better or worse than they were six months ago?;
  2. Do you expect your finances to be better or worse in six months?;
  3. Do you expect more or fewer jobs in the next six months in your area:
  4. Is now a good or bad time to make a major purchase?

The report said Alberta’s index lost 9.6 points in August, the third-largest provincial decline. 

“Pessimistic views on all four survey questions intensified this month. Negative responses to the question on major purchases increased by 6.3 percentage points, the largest increase among provinces. However, Alberta had been recovering the fastest across regions so far, with the smallest gap (17.9 points) between its August index and its pre-pandemic index.”

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