Economic Outlook 2019: Canadians in Psychological Recession

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January 13, 2019 — The results are in for the 24th annual edition of Pollara Strategic Insights’ Economic Outlook Study – Canada’s longest-running study of the public’s perceptions and expectations of the economy and their personal financial situation. And, it reveals that the public mood has turned anxious and negative.

Although the Great Recession has long been in Canada’s rear-view mirror, Canadians did not actually feel that the economy was out of recession until last year. However, the positive outlook of a year ago has proven short-lived, as Canadians are once again in a psychological recession as they head into 2019. Similar to the 2017 edition of this study, half (56%, +21) feel the economy is in recession, with just a third (32%; -18) correctly perceiving it to be in a period of growth.

  • These negative perceptions of the economy are found across all provinces/regions.
  • Far more Canadians feel the country is experiencing a mild (48%) than a severe (9%) recession.
  • And, among those who believe Canada is in a recession, most (48%) expect it to be of a relatively short duration – either 6-12 months (25%) or 13-18 months (23%).  This is a more positive expectation than in previous years, when Canadians who believed the economy was in recession tended to expect a long period of economic difficulty.

Most Canadians hold a neutral-negative outlook for 2019, expecting the Canadian economy and employment levels to remain unchanged or to worsen. Less than two-in-ten expect improvements.

  • Contextually, the public holds somewhat more negative expectations for the U.S. and global economies.

These negative views of the economy are consistent with the public’s assessment of their personal financial situation, where perceptions and expectations have turned negative since last year.

  • Overall, half continue to hold their own, but more are now losing ground (31%; +7) than getting ahead (13%; -8).
  • When considering how their household income will perform vis-à-vis the cost of living in 2019, Canadians are notably less optimistic than last year: 44% (+6) expect to fall behind compared to 42% (-4) who expect to keep pace.

See the full details in our report and associated data tables, as well as further perspective via John Geddes’ article in Maclean’s.

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