Consumer confidence retreats on “grim” outlook

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has retreated nearly five points on what one official described as a “grim” outlook for the economy.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) dropped 4.7 points to 48.5 for September. Consumer assessments of present business and labor conditions as well as their expectations for the near future declined.

“September’s pullback in confidence was due to less favorable business and labor conditions coupled with a more pessimistic short-term outlook,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

“Overall, consumers’ confidence in the state of the economy remains quite grim,” Franco added. “And, with so few expecting conditions to improve in the near term, the pace of economic growth is not likely to pick up in the coming months.”

The Conference Board, a business membership and research group, bases the CCI on the results of monthly surveys of about 5,000 households. Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of economic activity in the country.

The Present Situation Index, a measure of current conditions, fell 1.8 points to 23.1.

The proportion of consumers responding to the September survey who rated business conditions as “good” slipped three-tenths to 8.1 percent while the share of those who deemed conditions “bad” rose 3.8 points to 46.1 percent.

The proportion of consumers who described jobs as “plentiful” fell two-tenths to just 3.8 percent, while the share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” rose six-tenths to 46.1 percent.

The Expectations Index, a measure of consumers’ short-term outlook, retreated 6.6 points to 65.4.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months fell two points to 14.9 percent. The proportion of those who anticipate worsening conditions rose three points to 16.4 percent.

The share of consumers who expect more jobs to become available in coming months slipped two-tenths to 14.5 percent. But the proportion of those who believe fewer jobs will be available rose 3.1 points to 22.7 percent.

The share of consumers who expect their incomes to increase declined four-tenths to 10.2 percent.