Index: Consumer outlook less optimistic

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has slipped on less optimistic expectations for business and labor conditions.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index retreated 1.3 points to 78.1 in February.

The decline was attributed to a more than five-point drop in a component of the index tracking short-term expectations. A separate component tracking assessments of current conditions rose more than four points to its highest level in nearly six years.

“This suggests that consumers believe the economy has improved, but they do not foresee it gaining considerable momentum in the months ahead,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.

The Conference Board, a business research and membership association, bases the 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.

More upbeat assessments of current business and labor conditions pushed up the present situation component of the index to 81.7, the highest reading since April 2008.

The proportion of consumers responding to the surveys upon which the February index was based who described business conditions as “good” rose seven-tenths of a point to 21.5 percent. The share of those who called conditions “bad” fell eight-tenths of a point to 22.6 percent.

The proportion of consumers who said jobs were “plentiful” increased 1.4 points to 13.9 percent. The share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” slipped two-tenths of a point to 32.5 percent.

After improving over the previous two months, the consumer outlook was less upbeat in February, pulling down the expectations index to 75.7.

The share of consumers who said they expect business conditions to improve over the next six months fell seven-tenths of a point to 16.3 percent. The proportion of those who said they anticipate worsening conditions rose 1.1 points to 13.3 percent.

The share of consumers who said they expect more jobs to become available in coming months fell 1.8 points to 13.3 percent. The proportion of those who said they anticipate fewer jobs advanced 1.6 points to 20.6 percent.

Even as the share of consumers who said they expect their incomes to increase declined 1.2 points to 15.4 percent, the proportion of those who anticipate less income fell eight-tenths of a point to 13.1 percent.

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