A monthly measure of consumer confidence has retreated on less upbeat expectations for improving business and labor conditions.
The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) fell 1.4 points to 70.2 in March.
“The moderate decline was due solely to a less favorable short-term outlook, while consumer assessment of current conditions, on the other hand, continued to improve,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center.
Assessments of current business and labor conditions pushed the present situation component of the CCI up more than four points to 51, the highest level in more than three years. “Despite this month’s dip in confidence, consumers feel the economy is not losing momentum,” Franco said.
The Conference Board, a business research and membership group, bases the CCI on the results of monthly surveys of U.S. households. Economists closely watch the index because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of all economic activity in the country.
The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the March CCI was based who described current business conditions as “good” rose six-tenths of a point to 14.3 percent. The share of consumers who described current business conditions as “bad” rose a point to 32.7 percent.
The proportion of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” advanced 2.4 points to 9.4 percent, while the share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” rose more than two points to 41 percent. Less optimistic outlooks for business and labor conditions pulled down the expectations component of the CCI more than five points to 83.
The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months edged up three-tenths of a point to 19.2 percent. But the proportion of those who anticipate deteriorating conditions rose nearly two points to 13.5 percent. The share of consumers who believe more jobs will become available in coming months fell 1.5 points to 17.3 percent. The proportion of those who expect fewer jobs rose nearly two points to 18.3 percent.
Meanwhile, 15.8 percent of consumers expect their incomes to increase, up three-tenths from last month.