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Consumers Begin the Slow Comeback From COVID-19-Related Recession

One year ago this month the World Health Organization designated the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

American consumers continue to feel the negative impacts, according to the monthly Consumer Pulse study by the global information and insights company TransUnion. That is not to say all the news is bad. The company says it also observed positive signs, including finding that while 38% of respondents to the survey said their household income remains negatively impacted by the pandemic, that number is down significantly from the 53% that said the same one year prior.

TransUnion says it determined that three primary U.S. consumer types have formed as a result of COVID-19: Stable, hopeful, and in limbo.

Some important findings:

While 5% of the population has thrived during the pandemic—reporting no income drop and better than planned finances—another 3% are devastated by reduced income and don’t think they’ll ever recover.

For those whose income has been reduced, 8% are resilient saying their finances have fully recovered, and another 27% are hopeful saying their finances will recover.

About 35% of consumers report their financial situation is stable.

About 22% of individuals are in limbo because they’re unsure or slightly doubtful their finances will recover.

Only 7% started a new job or revenue-generating activity compared to 16% of hopeful and 24% of resilient individuals.

Half (51%) of those in limbo are low income (<$50,000) and 59% are women. Individuals in limbo are less likely to seek relief from bills and other federal/local accommodations.

“Whether you are in limbo, hopeful, or stable, the expectation is that many consumers will soon be flexing their spending muscle,” said Charlie Wise, head of global research and consulting at TransUnion. “In addition to more people receiving vaccinations, consumers have been or soon will be buoyed by an improved employment picture, stimulus checks, income tax returns and more access to credit.”

Early signs indicate the COVID-19 vaccine is having a positive impact on consumer outlook. Of those who said they’d been fully vaccinated, 77% stated they’re optimistic about the future compared to just 59% of those who had not been vaccinated.

Wise added that a benefit to borrowers is that lenders are incorporating alternative data into their lending strategies.

"Leveraging such information can result in more trustworthy relationships between consumers and lenders, which is especially important when uncertainty has reigned over the credit landscape during much of the last year,” concluded Wise.

The full report is available at TransUnion.com.

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media and Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning News, among others. Contact Christina at christina.hughesbabb@thefivestar.com.

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