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Consumer Confidence Edges Lower, Realtor Group President Resigns, Office Attendance Unchanged

Consumer Confidence Edges Lower, Realtor Group President Resigns, Office Attendance Unchanged

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Consumer Confidence Edges Lower

U.S. consumer confidence for August pulled back from July amid inflation concerns, according to the latest survey report by the Conference Board.

The New York-based economic research organization said on Tuesday its overall confidence index posted at 106.1, with 1985 used as a base of 100 to track fluctuations in consumers’ outlooks on the overall economy and their own finances. The August number was down from a revised 114 in July and erased back-to-back increases in June and July.

“Write-in responses showed that consumers were once again preoccupied with rising prices in general, and for groceries and gasoline in particular,” Conference Board Chief Economist Dana Peterson said in a statement, noting the pullback in confidence was evident among all age groups and most income categories.

Researchers compile scores based on metrics including consumer expectations for inflation, stock prices, interest rates and their own plans to make purchases and take vacations. Based on a six-month moving average, researchers said consumers’ plans to purchase cars and appliances continued to edge higher in August, but plans to buy homes headed lower, largely because of high interest rates.

The portion of respondents saying a recession is “somewhat” or “very likely” continued to tick down in August but remained elevated at 69%, researchers said. A similar survey this month by the University of Michigan also showed consumer sentiment declining from July but posting higher than in August 2022.

Realtor Group President Resigns

Utah residential broker Kenny Parcell resigned as president of the National Association of Realtors after the New York Times reported allegations of sexual harassment of NAR staff and members.

Parcell, who served as the Chicago-based trade group’s president since November 2022, released a letter Monday saying he was resigning because he recognized a need to “put the organization’s needs first.”

The NAR replaced Parcell with Tracy Kasper, a Boise, Idaho-based broker who was scheduled to begin work in November after her recent election as the group’s president but will now take the post immediately. In an NAR statement, Kasper acknowledged the “concern, anger and disappointment” among the group’s staff and members.

Kasper said the NAR, which has about 1.5 million members, will look to “enhance the way we foster a welcoming, safe and respectful workplace” and is forming a new presidential advisory group to make recommendations. “We are looking to make lasting and positive change and to do so as quickly as possible,” Kasper said.

The New York Times on Aug. 26 reported allegations from three NAR employees who said Parcell sexually harassed them and created a “culture of fear.” Parcell has denied the allegations. 

Office Attendance Unchanged

Big-city office attendance averaged 47.2% of pre-pandemic levels for the week that ended Aug. 23, unchanged from the prior week in the latest tracking by Kastle Systems.

Based on anonymous keycard data from clients’ office properties, the security technology firm’s latest “Back to Work Barometer” showed Houston leading with office visits at 60.9% of pre-pandemic levels, followed by Austin, Texas, at 57.9%, Dallas at 54% and Chicago at 50.6%.

Large-city office attendance on average has remained stuck around 50% of pre-pandemic levels for much of the past year, even as employers mandate more in-office work, according to Kastle Systems. Many companies are cutting back on space requirements with the rise of remote work as several also cut jobs amid slowing customer demand.

Farmers Insurance said Monday it planned to lay off about 2,400 employees, or 11% of its workforce, as part of a corporate restructuring aimed at increasing efficiency and profitability. Other major layoffs that have been announced this year include companies such as T-Mobile, CVS Health, Microsoft, Disney, Amazon, Google and Facebook.

U.S.-based companies this year announced nearly 482,000 layoffs between January and July, up 203% from the same period of 2022, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

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