ANN ARBOR, Mich. (June 6, 2017) — Overall U.S. customer satisfaction is up for the fifth consecutive quarter, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The 0.3-percent gain to 77.0 (on a 0-100 scale) for the first quarter of 2017 puts ACSI at an all-time high across 24 years of measurement. However, this is the slowest growth rate since the first quarter of 2016, when customer satisfaction began to trend upward. This suggests that aggregate customer satisfaction may be leveling off.
More than a year of mounting customer satisfaction has predictably resulted in stronger consumer spending growth. Since 2016, quarterly spending has increased by 2.8 percent, including the tepid growth of 0.3 percent in the first quarter of this year. This growth rate is stronger than the 2.3 percent quarterly average between 2010 and 2015, but both remain below longer-term averages. The White House assumes a 3.0-percent GDP growth, but this will require much stronger consumer spending. Over the past 25 years, GDP growth of 3.0 percent or more has been accompanied by average spending growth of 3.9 percent.
Several factors indicate that higher satisfaction will continue to boost consumer spending. Although real wages have not rebounded as quickly as expected, inflation has grown more slowly than anticipated, keeping prices low for consumers. Unemployment fell to a decade-low 4.5 percent in the first quarter, and consumers are willing to take on more debt. In fact, debt has returned to record-high levels not seen since before the Great Recession.
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