A monthly measure of consumer confidence has seesawed back down, a reflection of volatility as well as expectations for slowing growth.
The Conference Board reported its Consumer Confidence Index fell 7.3 points to 124.1 in March. The drop follows a 9.7-point gain in February that in turn reversed three months of declines.
“Confidence has been somewhat volatile over the past few months as consumers have had to weather volatility in the financial markets, a partial government shutdown and a very weak February jobs report,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.
“Despite these dynamics, consumers remain confident that the economy will continue expanding in the near term. However, the overall trend in confidence has been softening since last summer, pointing to a moderation in economic growth,” Franco added.
The business research and membership group bases the index on monthly household surveys. Economists monitor the results because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity.
For March, consumer assessments of business and labor conditions pulled down the present situation component of the index 12.2 points to 160.6.
The proportion of consumers describing business conditions as “good” fell 7.2 points to 33.4 percent. The share of those calling conditions “bad” rose 2.5 points to 13.6.
The proportion of those who said jobs are “plentiful” fell 3.7 points to 42 percent. The share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” rose two points to 13.7 percent.
The expectations component of the index fell four points to 99.8.
The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months fell 1.9 points to 17.7 percent. The proportion of those anticipating worsening conditions edged up a tenth of a point to 9.3 percent.
The share of consumers who expect more jobs to become available in coming months decreased 2.6 points to 16.4 percent. The proportion of those anticipating fewer job openings increased 1.1 points to 13.4 percent.
While 21 percent of consumers said they expect their incomes to increase, 7.6 percent said the anticipate less income.