A monthly measure of consumer confidence has climbed to its highest level in three years on more optimistic expectations for business and labor conditions.
The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rose 5.6 points in February to 70.4. The index now stands at its highest level since hitting 76.4 in February 2008.
At this time last year, the index stood at 46.4.
A more upbeat outlook for the next six months drove an expectations index up nearly eight points, although consumers were less enthusiastic about present conditions.
“Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions has improved moderately, but still seems rather weak,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Looking ahead, consumers are more positive about the economy and their income prospects, but feel somewhat mixed about employment conditions.”
The Conference Board, a business research and membership group, bases the CCI on the results of monthly surveys conducted by the Nielsen Company. Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity in the United States.
Consumers’ appraisals of current conditions nudged the Present Situation Index up 2.3 points to 33.4 in February.
The proportion of consumers answering the survey who characterized business conditions as “good” rose more than a point to 12.4 percent, while the share of those who called business conditions “bad” held steady at 39.6 percent.
The proportion of consumers who described jobs are “plentiful” edged up three-tenths to 4.9 percent, while the share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” fell 1.3 points to 45.7 percent.
Consumers’ outlook for the next six months drove the Expectations Index up to 95.1.
The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over that span rose four-tenths to 24.4 percent, while the proportion of those who anticipate worse conditions fell 1.8 points to 10.4 percent.
The share of consumers who believe more jobs will become available fell a point to 19.8 percent, but the proportion of those who anticipate fewer jobs fell more — 5.8 points to 15.4 percent.
The share of consumers who expect an increase in their incomes advanced two points to 17.3 percent.