Just in time for the holidays: more consumer confidence

There’s welcome news for anxious retailers in the latest measure of consumer confidence: a timely increase right before the holidays.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rose more than four points in November to 54.1 on more upbeat expectations for the next six months.

“Consumer confidence is now at its highest level in five months, a welcome sign as we enter the holiday season,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Consumers’ assessments of the current state of the economy and job market, while only slightly better than last month, suggests the economy is still expanding, albeit slowly. Expectations, the main driver of this month’s increase in confidence, are now at the highest level since May. Hopefully, the improvement in consumers’ mood will continue in the months ahead.”

The Conference Board,  a business research and membership group, bases the CCI on the results of monthly surveys of about 5,000 households in the United States. Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of economic activity in the country.

For November, consumer assessments of present business and labor conditions were only slightly more upbeat, nudging the Present Situation Index component of the CCI up a half point to 24.

The proportion of consumers responding to the November survey who described business conditions as “good” actually slipped two-tenths to 8.1 percent, while the share of those who said conditions are “bad” rose 1.3 points to 43.6 percent.

But the assessment of labor conditions was more positive with the proportion of consumers describing jobs as “plentiful” up a half point to 4 percent and the share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” up just two-tenths to 46.5 percent.

Consumers were far more upbeat in their outlooks for the next six months, pushing the Expectations Index component of the CCI up 6.7 points to 74.2.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve rose nearly a point to 16.7 percent, while the proportion of those who anticipate worsening conditions fell 2.3 points to 12.1 percent.

The share of consumers who believe more jobs will become available rose a point to 15.5 percent, while the proportion of those who expect fewer jobs fell 3.5 points to 18.8 percent.

The share of consumers who anticipate an increase in their incomes rose nearly a point to 10.6 percent.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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