Consumer confidence flags on less upbeat outlook

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has dropped along with expectations for improving labor conditions and earnings.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) fell more than two points to 79.7 in September.

“Consumer confidence decreased in September as concerns about the short-term outlook for both jobs and earnings resurfaced, while expectations for future business conditions were little changed,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board.

“Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions, however, were more positive. While overall economic conditions appear to have moderately improved, consumers are uncertain that the momentum can be sustained in the months ahead.”

The Conference Board, a business research and membership group, bases the CCI 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 economic activity in the country.

A more upbeat assessment of current conditions pushed up the present situation component of the CCI more than two points to 73.2.

The share of consumers responding to the survey upon which the September index was based who characterized business conditions as “good” climbed nearly a point to 19.5 percent. The share of consumers who described condition as “bad” fell six-tenths of a point to 23.9 percent.

The share of consumers who called jobs “plentiful” edged up two-tenths of a point to 11.5 percent. The proportion of those who said jobs are “hard to get” retreated six-tenths of a point to 32.7 percent, the lowest level in five years.

A less optimistic outlook pulled down the expectations component of the CCI nearly five points to 84.1.

The proportion of consumers who said they expect business conditions to improve over the next six months edged up three-tenths of a point to 20.9 percent. The share of those anticipating worsening conditions held steady at 11 percent.

But the proportion of consumers who expect more jobs to become available in the months ahead decreased six-tenths of a point to 16.9 percent. The share of those who believe fewer jobs will be available increased 2.5 points to 19.7 percent.

Meanwhile, 15.4 percent of consumers said they expect their incomes to increase, down almost two points.