Confidence index increases on more upbeat expectations

A monthly measure of consumer confidence advanced in August on more optimistic expectations for improving business and labor conditions.

Consumers remain less  upbeat about present conditions, though, especially employment.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index rose 2.5 points to 53.5. The gain erases some of the  declines over the past two months. At this time last year, the index stood at 54.5.

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

“Consumer confidence posted a modest gain in August, the result of an improvement in consumers’ short-term outlook. Consumers’ assessment of current conditions, however, was less favorable as employment concerns continue to weigh heavily on consumers’ attitudes,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

The Present Situation Index, a measure of current conditions, fell 1.5 points to 24.9.

The proportion of consumers responding to the August survey who rated business conditions as “good” slipped a tenth to 8.7 percent, although the share of those who said conditions are “bad” fell 1.4 points to 41.9 percent.

The proportion of consumers who described jobs as “plentiful” fell six-tenths to just 3.8 percent, while the share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” rose six-tenths to 45.7 percent.

The Expectations Index, a measure of consumers’ outlooks for the next six months, jumped five points to 72.5.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve rose 1.2 points to 17 percent, while the proportion of those anticipating worsening conditions fell 1.9 points to 13.4 percent.

The share of consumers who expect more jobs to become available rose four-tenths to 14.6 percent, while the proportion of those who anticipate fewer jobs fell 1.5 points to 19.4 percent. The share of consumers who expect their incomes to increase held steady at 10.6 percent.