Consumers taking their food and going home
Employers’ hiring plans in holding pattern
Baby boomers’ spending now a bust, says survey

Consumers taking their food and going home

Current food prices have impacted how consumers shop for groceries, but many continue purchasing the same quantities of natural and organic goods.

Natural and organic foods supermarket chainWhole Foods Market, in a survey conducted in cooperation withHarris Interactive, reports that 68% of U.S. adults have changed their cooking and eating habits because of the current state of the economy, with 51% eating dinner at home more often and 37% budgeting food shopping trips more strictly. At the same time, the annual Food Shopping Trends Tracker survey found that 76% of respondents do not want to compromise on the quality of the food they buy, regardless of current food prices. Even as 75% of those surveyed also continue to purchase natural or organic foods in the same quantities as they traditionally have, 65% of respondents would like to find ways to be able to buy these foods within their budget.

Elsewhere in the survey, 82% of those surveyed say the way they shop for groceries has been impacted by current food prices. In response, 54% indicated they’re using more coupons, 50% are more likely to comparison shop and 45% are more likely to switch to private label and store brands.

Likewise, the economic downturn has impacted Americans’ cooking and eating habits with 51% eating dinner at home more often, 37% keeping a tighter grip on their food budgets and 28% focusing on meals that use inexpensive staple items, including beans or whole grains.

The survey also found that adult consumers’ evolving eating habits are also trickling down to their children. The majority (87%) of parents of children between three and 17 say they provide breakfast at home, 70% provide an after-school snack at home, and 55% send their kids off with a packed school lunch. Of this latter group, 45% say they would like to find ways to provide healthy breakfasts/lunches/after school snacks for their children within their budget. Another 40% try to provide breakfasts/lunches/after school snacks for their children in reusable containers while 26% try to provide them in disposable items, including sandwich bags and the familiar brown paper bag.

Employers’ hiring plans in holding pattern

Employment outlook survey predicts a weak hiring pace in 2009’s closing quarter, though majority of employers plan to maintain staff levels through year’s end.

Manpower Inc., a Milwaukee, Wis.-based employment services firm,surveyedmore than 28,000 employers and found that 69% expect no change in their fourth quarter 2009 hiring plans; 12% anticipate an increase in staff levels, while 14% expect a decrease in payrolls. The remaining 5% of employers remain undecided about their hiring intentions.

In comparison to third quarter 2009, the seasonally adjusted data reveals the Northeast has the weakest outlook, the West and Midwest will remain relatively stable, and the South shows a slight increase in employer optimism.

In Wisconsin, a state rich in packaging converter operations and related industries, employers will likely parallel the national hiring trends that have been forecast for the last three months of 2009. For example, 12% of Green Bay employers, 13% of Appleton firms and 16% of Milwaukee/Waukesha/West Allis companies plan to hire additional employees. In contrast, 69% of Green Bay employers, 75% of Appleton firms and 67% of Milwaukee/Waukesha/West Allis companies plan to maintain current staff levels.

Baby boomers’ spending now a bust, says survey
Daily spending down $30 from last year across most generations

According to arecent Gallup poll, baby boomers’ average daily spending of $64 in 2009 is down sharply from a $98 average in 2008. But baby boomers-a group represented by 36% of U.S. adults, making it the largest generational group-are not alone in pulling back on their consumption, as all generations show significant declines from last year. Generation X-ers-the second largest generation, consisting of those born between 1965 and 1979-has reported the greatest spending on average in both years, and spends $71 per day in 2009, down from $110 in 2008.

Economists generally agree that consumer spending accounts for roughly two-thirds of the total gross domestic product, and since baby boomers represent the largest segment of U.S. consumers, their spending habits have a proportionately greater effect on the economy-and any potential recovery. As this age bracket nears retirement, the concern is that baby boomers will dial down their spending to compensate for losses suffered in their retirement savings over the past year, possibly hindering an economic recovery. Data from Gallup’s Daily tracking survey suggests boomers have already pulled back significantly this year from their reported average spending levels in 2008.

While the numbers of baby boomers make the generation’s influence on the national economy greater than any other, Gallup’s Daily tracking survey found their average reported spending is actually lower than that of Generation X. In 2009, average reported daily spending among Gen X-ers is $71, down from $110 last year. Survey analysts say the most likely reason for this discrepancy is that 71% of Gen X-ers have children under 18. Gallup says the presence of young children in the household serves as a major predictor of reported spending: In 2008 and 2009, the difference in reported average spending between parents with children under age 18 and non-parents was about $20. By comparison, only about one in four baby boomers have children under age 18.

The Gallup Daily tracking survey found that spending by Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1991) averages $61 a day-roughly on par with that of baby boomers at $64. This is the case even though Millennials’ reported income is significantly lower on average than baby boomers’.

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DeWitt & Co. Inc.
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