Consumer confidence rebounds on more upbeat outlook

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has rebounded on more upbeat outlooks for improving labor conditions and increasing income.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index climbed to 101.3 for March, up 2.5 points from a revised reading of 98.8 in February.

“This month’s increase was driven by an improved short-term outlook for both employment and income prospects. Consumers were less upbeat about business conditions,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board.

Franco said the latest results of consumer surveys suggest growth in the United States economy could have slowed during the first quarter, and there’s no significant momentum heading into spring.

The Conference Board, a 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 all economic activity in the country.

For March, less optimistic assessments of business and labor conditions pulled down the present situation component of the index three points to 109.1.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the March index was based who described business conditions as “good” held steady at 26.7 percent. The share of those who characterized business conditions as “bad” rose nearly three points to 19.4 percent.

The proportion of consumers who described jobs as “plentiful” edged up three-tenths of a point to 20.6 percent. The share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” also edged up three-tenths to 25.4 percent.

More upbeat outlooks for improving labor conditions pushed up the expectations component of the index six points to 96.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months fell nearly a point to 16.7 percent. The proportion of those anticipating worsening conditions also fell almost a point to 8 percent.

The share of consumers who expect more jobs to become available in coming months rose nearly two points to 15.5 percent. The proportion of those anticipating fewer jobs declined more than a point to 13.5 percent.

While 18.4 percent of consumers said they expect higher incomes, up two points, 9.9 percent anticipate lower incomes, down almost a point.