Final Results for February 2021
Feb Jan Feb M-M Y-Y
2021 2021 2020 Change Change
Index of Consumer Sentiment 76.8 79.0 101.0 -2.8% -24.0%
Current Economic Conditions 86.2 86.7 114.8 -0.6% -24.9%
Index of Consumer Expectations 70.7 74.0 92.1 -4.5% -23.2%
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Next data release: Friday, March 12, 2021 for Preliminary March data at 10am ET

Read our January 22nd report: The Impact of Emotions on Expectations
Surveys of Consumers chief economist, Richard Curtin
Despite a small gain in late February, consumer sentiment was slightly lower for the entire month than in January. All of February's loss was due to households with incomes below $75,000, with the declines mainly concentrated in future economic prospects. The worst of the pandemic may be nearing its end, but few consumers anticipate the type of persistent and robust economic growth that restores employment conditions to the very positive pre-pandemic levels. The recent revival in spending has been driven by drawdowns in precautionary savings. Interestingly, those with a college degree were more cautious about prospects for the national economy until just a few months ago (see the chart). In contrast, those with less than a college degree recorded the least favorable economic prospects in this month's survey, indicating the high cumulative toll of the pandemic. It is a common occurrence that groups that had suffered the least in a recession are the first to propel the economy forward, although it is true that those whose jobs were in the hardest hit sectors will be the slowest to fully recover.

Perhaps the most attention has been garnered by rising inflationary expectations. The year ahead inflation rate was expected to be 3.3% in February, up from 3.0% last month and 2.5% in December. While consumers clearly anticipate a spurt in inflation in the year ahead, the overall evidence does not indicate the emergence of an inflationary psychology that makes the expectation of inflation a self-fulfilling prophecy. The key lesson learned from the last inflationary era is that it is easy to underestimate the strength of inflationary psychology, and correspondingly, it is easy to overestimate the ability of economic policies to bring an end to inflationary psychology.