Consumer Confidence Index rebounds

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has rebounded on more slightly upbeat expectations for business and labor conditions.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index climbed 2.2 points to 96.2 in March. Still, the gain doesn’t fully offset a decline the month before.

“Consumers’ assessments of current conditions posted a moderate decline, while expectations regarding the short-term turned more positive as last month’s turmoil in the financial markets appears to have abated,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board. “On balance, consumers do not foresee the economy gaining any significant momentum in the near term, nor do they see it worsening.”

The business research and membership association bases the Consumer Confidence Index 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.

For March, less optimistic assessments of current business and labor conditions pulled down the present situation component of the index 1.5 points to 113.5.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the March index was based who described business conditions as “good” fell 1.6 points to 24.9 percent. The share of consumers who characterized business conditions as “bad” edged down two-tenths of a point to 18.8 percent.

The proportion of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” advanced 2.6 points to 25.4 percent. But the share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” also increased — three points to 26.6 percent.

Consumers were more upbeat in their short-term outlook, pushing up the expectations component of the index 4.8 points to 84.7.

The share of consumers who said they expect business conditions to improve over the next six months rose a half point to 15 percent. The proportion of those anticipating worsening conditions fell 2.4 points to 9.2 percent.

The share of consumers who believe more jobs will become available in coming months increased seven-tenths of a point to 12.9 percent. The proportion of those anticipating fewer jobs decreased 1.4 points to 16.3 percent.

While 17.5 percent of consumers said they expect their incomes to increase, up a half point, 11.8 percent anticipate lower incomes, up two-tenths of a point.