About a year after the onset of the most pronounced economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, consumer spirits are back to where they were before the virus hit American shores.

A new survey from the University of Michigan shows its consumer sentiment index at the highest level in a year. Richard Curtin, chief economist for the Survey of Consumers, said the improved feeling was pervasive.

“The gains were widespread across all socioeconomic subgroups and all regions, although the largest monthly gains were concentrated among households in the bottom third of the income distribution as well as those aged 55 or older,” he said.

Curtin specifically cited growth in COVID-19 vaccinations as a big reason for the boost, coupled with optimism about the relief package recently passed by Congress. However, consumers' opinion of their own individual financial circumstances showed little growth in March despite overall robust expectations for the national economy.

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The improved sentiment also is expected to lead to increased economic activity in a wide variety of areas, including expected growth in dining revenue.

“Overall, the data indicate strong growth in consumer spending during the year ahead, with the largest percentage gains for services, including travel and restaurants, and the smallest increases for vehicles and homes,” said Curtin.

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