American consumer sentiment over the past year feels and looks like a rollercoaster ride in freefall, ever driving downward as the chart shows. It’s jobs and health costs forcing the downward trajectory.

More than stock market declines and saving for retirement, Americans fear two things most in this recession: losing their job, and the costs of health care.
38% of Americans cite unemployment as their biggest concern in early February 2009.

Unemployment fears are shared by both men and women. Younger Americans are more concerned about losing a job (50%) than older people (22%) — who are more concerned about losses in the stock market and rising health care costs.

Health care costs are of greater concern to women than men (23% of women compared to 18% of men).

Edward Jones, the financial services company, sponsored this survey of 1,000 respondents in early February 2009.

People with less educational attainment and lower incomes are more worried about the cost of health care than more educated, higher income Americans.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Unemployment increased in 46 of the 50 United States in 2008, according to a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on February 28.

In 2009, there is a consensus among both people and analysts that things will get worse before they get better. Unemployment benefits were paid to 5,112,000 people — an increase of 114,000 from the week before.

The University of Michigan/Reuters Survey of Consumers index fell to near its all-time low of 51.7 reached in May, 1980. UM/Reuters found that Americans expect the recession will continue throughout 2009 and unemployment would increase. The bottom line, depressing finding is that 2/3 of Americans believe it will take five years to fully restore favorable economic conditions.

Corroborating UM/Reuters’ finding last month was The Conference Board’s measure of Consumer Confidence, which fell to its lowest level since the measure’s inception in 1967.