Consumer confidence seesaws back upward

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has seesawed back up on more upbeat assessments of business and labor conditions. The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) advanced more than nine points to 70.8 in January.

The CCI gained a total of almost 24 points in November and December before losing nearly four points in January. The February gain brings the index close to the 72 posted a year ago at this time.

“Consumers are considerably less pessimistic about current business and labor conditions than they were in January. And, despite further increases in gas prices, they are more optimistic about the short-term outlook for the economy, job prospects and their financial situation,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

The Conference Board, a business research and membership group, bases the CCI 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.

Consumer assessments of current business and labor conditions pushed up the Present Situation component of the index more than six points to 45.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the February index was based who described business conditions as “good” edged up a tenth of a point to 13.3 percent. The share of those who said conditions are “bad” slid more than seven points to 31.2 percent.

The proportion of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” rose four-tenths to 6.6 percent, while the share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” fell almost five points to 38.7 percent.

A more upbeat outlook for business and labor conditions in coming months pushed up the Expectations component of the index more than 11 points to 88.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months rose two points to 18.7 percent. The proportion of those anticipating worse conditions fell nearly three points to 11.8 percent.

The share of consumers who expect more jobs to become available rose more than two points to 18.7 percent, while the proportion of those anticipating fewer jobs fell more than two points to 16.9 percent. The share of consumers who expect their incomes to increase advanced 1.6 points to 15.4 percent.