CR Index: You're Buying More, Less Worried

Consumer Reports is out with the latest edition of its economic-health tracker, the CR Index, and the news is generally positive, with gains in jobs and consumer spending, and declines in stress. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to break out the bubbly: “We are seeing modest improvements across our indices since April, which demonstrate that consumers are starting the long slog out of this historic recession,” said Ed Farrell, a director of the Consumer Reports National Research Center. “But a full recovery will require a substantial period of growth for consumer confidence to fully take hold.”

According to CR:

The personal financial status of the American consumer is on the rise, according to the latest results from the Consumer Reports Index. The most significant improvement is in the job market. The Employment Index stands at 50.6, up from 50.4 the prior month. In the past 30 days, 6 percent of Americans have started a new job, up from 5 percent in April and 4.6 percent a year ago. The proportion of Americans who have lost their job in the past 30 days is 4.9 percent, well down from the recent high of 7.8 percent in October, 2009.

Americans also faced fewer financial difficulties in April. The Consumer Reports Trouble Tracker Index has improved significantly, falling to 53.0 from its spike in April of 63.5. Fewer people had problems paying their medical bills, had negative changes in their credit card terms, or had trouble paying major bills (excluding mortgages).

The news isn’t good for everyone, however. Of those with household incomes under $50,000, 25.5% have had trouble with medical bills or paying for medication; 9.5% lost or have reduced healthcare coverage and 15.5% missed payment on a major bill.

CR Index: Americans’ finances improve [Consumer Reports Money]