Marsh & McLennan Advantage Insights logo
Conversations and insights from the edge of global business
Menu Search

Quick Takes

Americans Are Buying Fewer Gifts This Year

U.S. holiday shoppers are watching their wallets this season as recession fears continue into the new year. Americans are spending less on gifts and donations, according to a survey that shows people are planning to buy an average of nine gifts, compared to 16 gifts last year. 

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index also reflects the economic uncertainty — in the past six months, consumer outlook has been comparable to the Great Recession in 2008 or the double-digit inflation of the 1970s. High prices, which have risen faster than wages, have led 41% of U.S. adults to say they are having difficulty paying for essential household items. More than one-third of U.S. households say they have reduced or skipped buying medicine or food to pay their energy bills.

Despite inflation and consumer worries, the National Retail Federation has forecast that retail sales will grow between 6% and 8%. National retail sales rose to about $5,600 billion in 2021, a 17% increase over 2020.

Analysis: COVID Cost Employers $213 Billion in Lost Hours in the US

Roughly 6.6 billion hours were lost over two years due to the pandemic, according to a new report from the Integrated Benefits Institute. Researchers estimate the cost associated with those hours to be $213.1 billion ($167.4 billion in the first year and $45.7 billion in the second).

According to its analysis, the industries that suffered the most economically were educational services, health care, and social assistance ($30.8 billion); public administration ($27.1 billion); construction ($23.9 billion); waste management services ($22.4 billion); and manufacturing ($21.5 billion).

The top reason for lost hours include economic issues, accounting for 44% of the reasons in year one and 36% in year two. Examples of economic issues include slack (or slow) work, business conditions, or workers could only find part-time work. The report cites an example of slack work or business conditions as a “temporary closure due to the pandemic.” 

Data from two years prior to the pandemic shows that economic reasons accounted for 36.3% of lost hours, indicating that the sharp increase in year one of the pandemic had almost completely receded in year two, when the researchers note a spike in personal leave instead.

Survey: Indians See China and U.S. as Top Military Threats

A new survey sheds light on how Indians view their diplomatic relationships with two global superpowers.

According to research conducted by Morning Consult, Indians view China (43% of respondents) as their country’s biggest threat, followed by the U.S. (22%). Pakistan and Russia follow each with 13% of citizens saying these countries are India’s biggest threat.    

While India’s mistrust of the U.S. may be surprising, given that it is seen as an even bigger threat than its longtime rival Pakistan, the authors point to India’s pragmatic approach to dealing with competing superpowers.  

“As tensions between Washington and Beijing increase, the Indian public may be worried about getting caught in the middle of a U.S.-China conflict that destabilizes regional security, putting India at risk,” the authors said.

Complicating the relationship between the world’s two largest democracies even further is the conflict in Ukraine. The study finds that a significant share of Indians believe that that the U.S. (26%) and NATO (18%) are responsible for instigating that conflict. Together those results are higher than the share who believe that Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February of 2022, is responsible (38%) the conflict.

Survey: Most CEOs Expect Economic Turnaround by 2024

The Conference Board 2023 C-Suite Outlook survey

Business leaders across the globe are girding for a year that’s been preceded by compounding global risks, from record prices to geopolitical instability. Yet many CEOs believe that growth in their regions will accelerate within the year. 

The Conference Board’s annual survey of C-suite executives reveals that most CEOs believe their region is in a recession, but 48% predict an economic turnaround by the end of 2023. Nearly as many (46%) believe a recession will last at least until mid-2024. 

Nearly half of CEOs in the U.S. (51%) and Europe (49%) believe that growth will resume by mid- to late 2023, while in China, executives have a more optimistic outlook (59%). CEOs in Latin America, who alone cited declining trust in government as a top-tier concern, were most pessimistic, with 64% saying a recession will last until 2024 or beyond. 

Although the global economy is on a downward trend, the report’s authors do not forecast a global recession. Rather, they see weakened GDP growth of 2.1%: “A pace that does not formally constitute a global recession but, if achieved, would be the weakest growth rate since 2001 (outside of global recession years 2009 and 2020).” They also forecast regional recessions, most likely in the U.S., Europe and some of the largest Latin American economies, while Russia and Ukraine would remain in recession longer. 

Recessions’ Negative Effects on Public Health

If past recessions are any indication, governments and businesses need to be on alert regarding the health repercussions of an economic downturn. 

As the Global Risks Report 2023 indicates, economic pressures are likely to intensify. Periods of economic decline are linked to considerable increases in excess mortality, with higher rates persisting years after the event. Job losses can also drive spikes in suicide rates, with men typically more affected. During the 2007-08 global financial crisis (GFC) there were 12-times more suicides among men than women in the U.S.

Recessions can contribute to spikes in conditions ranging from depression to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancers, as well as malnutrition and greater susceptibility to infections. A study linked 260,000 excess cancer-related deaths in OECD countries to GFC-prompted unemployment and reduced health expenditure. The relentless stress of joblessness is associated with higher mortality.

Economic uncertainty can also impact health systems’ financial resilience — either through deliberate spending cuts, declining GDP or inflation-linked escalating costs. Recession repercussions will add to existing crises for the health sector, such as long-standing workforce-related issues. While recession-linked impacts will be shaped by national contexts, a failure to prepare for the health consequences of a looming economic downturn puts already-suffering populations at further risk.

Get ahead in a rapidly changing world. Sign up for our daily newsletter. Subscribe
​​