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Equifax Survey, August Retrospective: Consumer Stress Rises as COVID-19 Cases Surge

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The Equifax Consumer Credit Confidence Survey is a semi-monthly assessment that measures consumer sentiment about topics and behaviors related to personal finance and credit during the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic. Wave 8 of the survey was conducted online July 17-22, 2020. The survey was balanced so that gender, age group, employment status and region represent those over 18 years of age in the U.S. per Census estimates for 2018.

Consumers are growing more concerned about the medical impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 53% saying they're afraid of "getting ill from the virus," according to the latest Equifax Consumer Credit Confidence Survey. This change represents a statistically significant increase from the 48% reported during Waves 4 through 6 of the survey.

As the virus was spreading throughout the country during the second half of July, respondents showed they were aware of the increasing threat to their health, with 11% reporting a loss of family or friends to Covid-19, up from 6% a month earlier.

A possible clue to the rising concern: The survey asked respondents whether they had already returned to work and whether they might return in the future. More than one-third of respondents (36%) reported a work location change, with 13% noting they had been working from home but had now returned to their place of employment and 23% stating that they were working from home but expected to return to their place of work. Notably, the number of those consumers who are working from home but expect to return to their original work location is down from 31% at the start of the pandemic.

While consumers are growing more concerned about the health threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, they're still worried about their job prospects and the economic fallout. In Wave 8 of the survey, 24% of respondents noted increased job insecurity, up from 20% from the prior survey (conducted in early July).

Overall, negative sentiments are trending higher as well. Consumers are less optimistic (29%, down from a high of 33% in early July), less productive (13%, down from a high of 16% a month prior), and more anxious (29%), stressed (28%) and upset (10%) than reported in early July.

Taking a deeper dive into the data, it's interesting to note that consumers felt the most positive about the pandemic and their economic prospects at the end of May and into the middle of June. When asked whether the Covid-19 pandemic might further impact them over the next six months, 56% reported being concerned or extremely concerned during Wave 5 of the survey, conducted June 5-8, 2020. In the latest survey, that number jumped to 62% of respondents.

As families begin to weigh sending their children back to school, other concerns emerge. Families with school-age children are far more comfortable with the idea of sending children back to school or college in the next "month or two" (43%). But just 33% of respondents with school-age children would be comfortable sending kids back to school if it started "next week."

And when it comes to being safe at school, 77% of all consumers say they would advise their children to wear a mask and follow other safety precautions if they do return to in-person learning.

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