WASHINGTON — The fewest Americans in five months said the economy was improving in June, signaling the slowdown in employment is seeping into consumer psychology.
The share of households viewing the economy as heading in the right direction fell to 22 percent this month, the lowest since January, pushing the Bloomberg monthly expectations gauge to minus 11 from minus 1 in May. The weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index was minus 37.9 in the period ended June 17, down from a four-week high of minus 36.4.
"The steady drip of dreary economic data and deteriorating labor market is reshaping public expectations," said Bloomberg LP senior economist Joseph Brusuelas in New York. The decline "will likely result in slower spending, which in turn will likely have an adverse impact on business confidence."
Growing pessimism raises the odds that retailers will continue to see demand cool after sales dropped over the past two months. Federal Reserve policymakers said Wednesday they will expand a program aimed at reducing long-term interest rates in a bid to spur the world's largest economy after lowering their outlook for growth and employment.
Another report Thursday showed more Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, indicating the labor market continues to struggle.
Jobless claims decreased by 2,000 to 387,000 in the week ended June 16, according to data from the Labor Department. The median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for 383,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, climbed to the highest of the year.
The Fed said Wednesday it will expand its program to replace short-term Treasury securities with longer-term debt by $267 billion through the end of 2012. Central bankers also said they were "prepared to take further action as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustain improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability."