New York — Consumer confidence is improving, albeit slowly, and globally it is at its highest level in seven years, according to researchers at The Nielsen Co.
Using a 100-degree scale of optimism and pessimism, the company ranked consumer confidence levels in in 60 countries worldwide during three-month intervals, based on surveys.
Consumers in Asia (106), North America (103) and Europe (77) said things were getting better. Optimism in the Asia-Pacific region has remained high since January, and confidence levels in North America and Europe have risen by three and two points, respectively, since the first quarter of 2014. The global sentiment rose by one point during the quarter.
However, in Latin America (90) and the Middle East/Africa (93), confidence levels dropped by three points and one point, respectively, in the second quarter of 2014, Nielsen reports.
In 2013, global consumer optimism was steady during the final three quarters at 94, one point higher than at the start of the year and up by three points compared with 2012. Approximately one-third of markets surveyed in 2013 reported increased confidence, but in about half, pessimism prevailed.
Venkatesh Bala, PhD, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a division of Nielsen, observes: “Recovery continues to move slowly and is hampered by cash-strapped consumers who grapple with having little discretionary income after paying essential expenses. As 2014 progresses, a brighter outlook is expected, but sluggishness will continue until there’s a marked improvement in the jobless rate and wages are commensurate with rising costs.”
Jobless rates in the U.S. fell to 6.1 percent in June from 6.3 in May 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. European confidence reflects uneven rates of unemployment: As of April 2014, the unemployment rate in Germany continued at a 20-year low but reached 13 percent in Italy.