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RBC Canadian Consumer Outlook Index dips slightly in January as job anxiety rises

The older you get, the less you fret about debt

TORONTO, February 1, 2010 — The January RBC Canadian Consumer Outlook Index dipped two points to 106, as consumers delayed major purchases, were less positive about their outlook for the Canadian economy and showed increased job anxiety. According to the survey, almost six in ten Canadians (58 per cent) are concerned about their current level of debt. However, fewer Canadians in the over 55 age group expressed concern (45 per cent), likely because fewer of them are still carrying debt.

When asked at what age they expect to be or became debt free, the average Canadian said 57, with interesting differences between age groups:

  • Canadians aged 18 to 34 indicate that they expect to be debt free by age 43, on average.
  • Those aged 35 to 54 expect to be debt-free by age 59, on average.
  • However, Canadians over age 55 do not expect to be (or did not become) debt free until age 66, on average.

"Canadians are clearly worried about their current level of debt," said David McKay, group head, Canadian Banking, RBC. "We are proactively contacting our clients to provide customized advice to help them reach their goals, including helping them become debt-free sooner."

Slightly more than one-in-four Canadians (26 per cent) say that a member of their household is worried about losing their job or being laid off, up significantly from one-in-five (21 per cent) in December. Job anxiety is up in every province, with the highest levels in British Columbia (32 per cent) and Alberta (31 per cent). The lowest levels of job anxiety were found in Manitoba and Saskatchewan (19 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (18 per cent).

Other national highlights include:

  • Canadian economy: While Canadians remain divided regarding the overall state of the economy, the balance has tipped into negative territory, with 52 per cent describing it as bad and 48 per cent describing it as good in January. In December, 51 per cent viewed it as good and 49 per cent viewed it as bad. Looking ahead, fewer Canadians expect the Canadian economy to improve over the next year (56 per cent in January compared to 60 per cent in December), while the percentage who expect it to get worse remained unchanged at 17 per cent. This reduction in optimism was also reflected in a significant increase in the percentage of Canadians who plan to delay major purchases, such as cars, vacations and appliances, due to current economic conditions (56 per cent in January versus 47 per cent in December).

  • Personal Financial Situation (Overall): The percentage of Canadians who think that their personal financial situation is better than it was three months ago has improved slightly (21 per cent in January compared to 18 per cent in December). There has also been a slight improvement in the percentage of Canadians who think that their personal financial situation will improve in the next three months, which has risen to 32 per cent in January from 30 per cent in December. Canadians remain more optimistic in the longer term, with more than four-in-ten Canadians (45 per cent) expecting their personal economic situation to improve over the next year (compared to 43 per cent in December).

  • Interest Rates: More Canadians expect interest rates to go up in the next six months (68 per cent) - up significantly from the December poll (57 per cent). Fewer than three-in-ten Canadians (28 per cent) expect that interest rates will stay the same over the same period.

"While the jobless rate in Canada remained steady at 8.5 per cent in December, 2,600 jobs were lost that month," said Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist, RBC. "Canadians were likely reacting to those numbers and expressing some insecurity. Nonetheless, over the course of 2010, we expect to see a sustained improvement in the labour market."

About The RBC Canadian Consumer Outlook Index
The RBC Canadian Consumer Outlook Index, benchmarked as of November 2009, is based on the results of an online survey of 1,014 Canadians, ages 18 and over, conducted by Ipsos Reid between January 8 and 14, 2010. This data represents the most timely and comprehensive snapshot of consumer attitudes regarding their finances and the economy in Canada. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100 per cent response rate would have an estimated margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults in Canada been polled.

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For more information, please contact:
Rina Cortese,
RBC Corporate Communications, (416) 974-6970

Gillian McArdle,
RBC Media Relations, (647) 400-8464