Index: Consumer confidence rebounds

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has rebounded on more optimistic expectations for improving business and labor conditions.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index jumped four points to 82.3 in March. The increase more than makes up for a 1.1 point decrease the month before.

A component of the index tracking current conditions slipped six-tenths of a point, but another component tracking short-term expectations jumped seven points.

“Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue improving and believe it may even pick up a little steam in the months ahead,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board, a business research and membership association.

The Conference Board bases the Consumer Confidence Index on the results of monthly household surveys. Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of all economic activity.

Slight less upbeat assessments of current business and labor conditions pulled down the present situation component of the index to 80.4.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the March index was based who characterized current business conditions as “good” rose 1.7 points to 22.9 percent. But the share of those who called conditions “bad” rose 1.2 points to 23.2 percent.

While 13.1 percent of consumers said jobs were “plentiful,” down three-tenths of a point, 33 percent said jobs were “hard to get,” up six-tenths of a point.

A more upbeat outlook pushed up the expectations component of the index to 83.5.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months rose eight-tenths of a point to 18.1 percent.

Meanwhile, 10.2 percent of consumers anticipate worsening conditions, down 2.4 points.

The proportion of consumers who believe more jobs will become available in the months ahead edged up two-tenths of a point to 13.9 percent. At the same time, 18 percent of consumers expect fewer jobs, down 2.9 points.

Even as the share of consumers who expect their incomes to grow fell nine-tenths of a point to 14.9 percent, the proportion of those who anticipate less income decline 1.3 points to 12.1 percent.