Consumer Confidence Index edges upward

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has edged up on slightly more upbeat expectations for the next six months. Concerns over current business and labor conditions continue to mount, however.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) inched up two-tenths to 45.4 in September.

“The pessimism that shrouded consumers last month has spilled over into September. Consumer expectations, which had plummeted in August, posted a marginal gain,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

“However, consumers expressed greater concern about their expected earnings, a sign that does not bode well for spending. In addition, consumers’ assessments of current conditions declined for the fifth consecutive month, a sign that the economic environment remains week,” Franco added.

The Conference Board, a business research and membership group, bases the CCI on the result of monthly surveys conducted by Nielsen. Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of all economic activity in the country.

Assessments of current conditions pulled down the Present Situation component of the CCI nearly two points to 32.5.

The proportion of consumers responding to the September surveys who described business conditions as “good” fell more than two points to 11.7 percent. The share of those who called conditions “bad” held steady at 40.4 percent.

The proportion of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” rose seven-tenths to 5.5 percent. But the share of those who called jobs “hard to get”advanced 1.5 points to 50 percent.

Consumers were slightly more upbeat in their outlooks for the near future, pushing up the Expectations component of the CCI 1.6 points to 54.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve slipped five-tenths to 11.3 percent. But the proportion of those who anticipated worsening conditions fell more — two points to 22.6 percent.

The share of consumers who expect more jobs to become available inched up two-tenths to 12 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs fell 2.6 points to 28.6 percent.

The share of consumers who believe their incomes will increase dropped a point to 13.3 percent.