By Nathalie Voit

U.S. consumer confidence dropped to a nine-month low in November as ongoing worries about the COVID-19 virus and high inflation continued to grip the nation. 

The Consumer Confidence Index fell to 109.5 in November, down from 111.6 in October, the Conference Board reported Nov. 30. Tuesday’s results were the lowest since February when the index stood at 95.2. 

The Present Situation Index, which tracks consumer sentiment about current business and labor market conditions, fell to 142.5 in November from 145.5 the month before. The Expectations Index, which reflects consumers’ short-term outlook about overall economic conditions, also declined, falling to 87.6 in November from 89.0 in October. 

According to Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board Lynn Franco, concerns about rapidly escalating inflation and the Delta variant contributed to the bleak survey results.

“Consumer confidence moderated in November, following a gain in October,” Franco said.

“Concerns about rising prices—and, to a lesser degree, the Delta variant—were the primary drivers of the slight decline in confidence,” he added. 

The survey found the proportion of consumers planning to buy big-ticket items such as cars, houses, and major household appliances in the next six months decreased. The news comes amid a recent report by the University of Michigan that revealed an even steeper decline in consumer sentiment. 

According to the University of Michigan survey, consumer sentiment levels sat at a decade-low reading of 67.4, down from 71.7 in October. The 10-year low reflected consumer expectations about escalating inflation and the belief that no viable policies have yet been developed to curb inflation or at least contain its effects, the survey’s chief economist Richard Curtin said. 

The Board expects confidence and spending levels to ebb in the coming months as sticky inflation and a possible resurgence of the coronavirus threaten to weaken economic growth. 

The survey was completed on Nov. 19 before news of the Omicron COVID-19 variant could affect results. According to Nancy Vanden Houten, a lead economist at Oxford Economics, the omicron variant is predicted to have a “moderate negative impact on growth.”

“We still anticipate real GDP growth of 7.9% in fourth quarter and real consumer spending growth of 6.5%,” she said.