Confidence index climbs to highest level of the year

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has climbed to its highest level of the year on more upbeat assessments of current conditions as well as the near future.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index rose nearly four points in October to 72.2. With gains in each of the past two months, the reading is the highest since the CCI stood at 71.6 in February.

“Consumers were considerably more positive in their assessment of current conditions, with improvements in the job market as the major driver,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board, a business research and membership group. “Consumers were modestly more upbeat about their financial situation and the short-term economic outlook, and appear to be in better spirits approaching the holiday season.”

The Conference Board bases the CCI on the results of monthly surveys conducted by Nielsen. Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity in the country.

Consumer assessments of current conditions pushed up the present situation component of the CCI more than seven points in October to 56.2.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the October CCI was based who described business conditions as “good” increased more than a point to 16.5 percent. The share of those who said business conditions are “bad” slipped seven-tenths of a point to 33.1 percent.

The proportion of consumers who called jobs “plentiful” advanced more than two points to 10.3 percent. The share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” retreated more than a point to 39.4 percent.

Consumers were slightly more upbeat in their outlook for the near term, pushing up the expectations component of the CCI more than a point in October to 82.9.

The share of consumers who said they expect business conditions to improve over the next six months climbed more than three points to 21.4 percent. The proportion of those who believe business conditions will worsen edged up six-tenths of a point to 15.1 percent.

The share of consumers who expect more jobs to become available in coming months rose more than a point to 19.2 percent. The proportion of those who anticipate fewer jobs rose almost two points, though, to 20.3 percent.

The share of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes advanced eight-tenths of a point to 16.7 percent.

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