Confidence index reflects a little less cheer

The last monthly measure of consumer confidence before the holiday shopping season reflects a little less cheer, although expectations for increased sales persist.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index declined more than five points to 88.7 in November on less upbeat assessments of current business and labor conditions and less optimistic expectations for the short term.

The results don’t necessarily preclude higher holiday sales, however. “Income expectations were virtually unchanged and gas prices remain low, which should help boost holiday sales,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.

A separate holiday spending survey conducted by the Conference Board earlier found that U.S. households expect to spend an average of $538 on holiday gifts this year, up from $528 last year.

The business research and membership association bases its Consumer Confidence Index on the results of monthly surveys of U.S. households. Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of all economic activity in the country.

For November, a component of the index tracking assessments of current business and labor conditions fell more than three points to 91.3.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the November index was based who described business conditions as “good” slipped seven-tenths of a point to 24 percent. The share of those who said conditions are “bad” rose more than a point to 22.4 percent.

The proportion of consumers who characterized jobs as “plentiful” fell a half point to 16 percent. The share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” edged up two-tenths to 29.2 percent.

A component of the index tracking short-term expectations dropped almost seven points to 87.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months retreated nearly two points to 17.6 percent. The proportion of those anticipating worsening conditions jumped almost two points to 10.7 percent.

The share of consumers who believe more jobs will become available in coming months fell a point to 15 percent. The proportion of those expecting fewer job openings increased more than two points to 16.4 percent.

While 16.3 percent of consumers expect increasing income, down four-tenths, 11.3 percent expect less income, down a tenth.

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