Consumer optimism has been hit by a marked increase in the number of people who are concerned about their employment prospects, a new survey has revealed.
The latest Consumer Confidence Survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) found that, of those people questioned, some 48 per cent believed that job prospects over the coming year will not be good, while 26 per cent described them as likely to be bad.
In the previous survey, which covered the second quarter of the year, only 20 per cent considered the jobs outlook as bad.
According to the survey, there has been a similar decline in sentiments on personal finances. The number of people who thought that the prospects for their own personal finances are ‘not so good’ climbed 6 per cent in the third quarter of the year, up to 48 per cent.
The survey did, however, throw up contradictory data. While more people appeared to be concerned about their own employment and income circumstances – there were increases in worries over utility bills (from 15 per cent to 23 per cent), food prices (from 12 per cent to 20 per cent) and personal debt (from 19 per cent to 20 per cent) – the state of the economy has taken a back seat.
In the previous survey, covering the second quarter of the year, 39 per cent of respondents cited the economy as their most or second most important concern. In the latest poll, that proportion dropped to 26 per cent.
Other figures from the survey suggest that the power of public perception may yet have a role in applying a drag on the recovery.
Some 84 per cent of respondents thought that the country was still in recession, and only 20 per cent believed the UK will be out of it within the next year.
Stephen Robertson, the BRC’s director general, said: “Consumer confidence is now down to its lowest for a year and these results suggest prospects for the early part of next year are fragile. People’s fears about their job prospects for 2011 are the main cause.
“Despite tentative indicators of recovery, four out of five people still think we’re in recession and a fifth of those believe that won’t have changed by next autumn. With spare cash short and cutting back rising up the household agenda, a strong revival in consumer confidence is likely to be some way off.”
Chris Morley, group managing director Nielsen, which carried out the research in partnership with the BRC, added: “This survey was conducted in anticipation of the recent spending review which outlined the extent of budget cuts.
“It tells us that consumers are clearly concerned about inflation on petrol, utility bills and food shopping, underpinned by a sustained and increasing worry over jobs. With such unease about covering basic costs, it is not surprising that many people claim they have no spare money to spend and that the majority are attempting to make savings.”