Confidence index: Consumers less upbeat

What had been for four months a steadily increasing measure of consumer confidence in the United States has retreated on less upbeat assessments of labor and business conditions.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index fell more than eight points to 86 in September. Assessments of current conditions as well as short-term expectations decreased. The overall decline follows four straight months of gains.

“A less positive assessment of the current job market, most likely due to the recent softening in growth, was the sole reason for the decline in consumers’ assessment of present-day conditions,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board. “Looking ahead, consumers were less confident about the short-term outlook for the economy and labor market and somewhat mixed regarding their future earnings potential. All told, consumers expect economic growth to ease in the months ahead.”

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

For September, a component of the index tracking assessments of the present situation dropped 4.5 points to 89.4.

The proportion of consumers responding to surveys upon which the index was based who described business conditions as “good”edged down a tenth of a point to 23.4 percent. The share of those who called business conditions “bad” held steady at 21.3 percent.

But the proportion of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” dropped 2.5 points to 15.1 percent. The share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” edged up a tenth to 30.1 percent.

 A component of the index tracking expectations fell 9.4 points to 83.7 in September.

The share of consumer who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months fell 2.2 points to 18.6 percent. The proportion of those anticipating worsening conditions climbed 2.1 points to 12 percent.

The share of consumers who believe more jobs will become available in the months ahead fell 2.6 points to 15.2 percent. The proportion of those expecting fewer jobs advanced 2.6 points to 17.8 percent.

The share of consumers who expect their incomes to grow rose 1.3 points to 16.8 percent. But the proportion of those who expect a drop in income increased more — 1.8 points to 13.4 percent.