Consumer confidence slips, but outlook holds steady

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has slipped, but the outlook for improving business and labor conditions remains unchanged.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index retreated 1.6 points to 82.3 in April. While consumers were less upbeat in their assessments of current conditions, their expectations for the near future held steady.

“While sentiment regarding current conditions may have slipped a bit, consumers do not foresee the economy or the labor market losing the momentum that has been building up over the past several months,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.

The business research and membership association bases the 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.

Less optimistic assessments of current business and labor conditions pulled down the present situation component of the index more than four points to 78.3.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the April index was based who called business conditions “good” edged down nearly a point to 21.8 percent. The share of consumers who characterized business conditions as “bad” rose almost a point to 24.4 percent.

The proportion of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” slipped nearly a point to 12.9 percent. The share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” climbed more than a point to 32.5 percent.

The short-term outlook for business and labor conditions held steady as the expectations component of the index edged up a tenth of a point to 84.9.

The share of consumers who expect the economy to improve over the next six months remained unchanged at 17.4 percent. The proportion of those anticipating worsening conditions edged up two-tenths of a point to 10.3 percent.

The share of consumers who expect more jobs to become available in the months ahead increased nearly a point to 15 percent. The proportion or those who anticipate fewer jobs rose four-tenths of a point to 17.9 percent.

Even as the share of consumers who expect their incomes to increase rose almost two points to 17.1 percent, the proportion of those anticipating less income rose 1.4 points to 12.9 percent.