Index: Consumer confidence “back on track”

Consumer confidence appears to be “back on track,” according to the latest results of a monthly index tracking the outlook for business and labor conditions.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index advanced more than three points to 80.7 in January. Measures of both current assessments and expectations increased.

“Consumers’ assessment of the present situation continues to improve, with both business conditions and the job market rated more favorably,”

said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board, a business research and membership association.

“Looking ahead six months, consumers expect the economy and their earnings to improve, but were somewhat mixed regarding the outlook for jobs. All in all, confidence appears to be back on track, and rising expectations suggest the economy may pick up some momentum in the months ahead,” Franco said.

The Conference Board bases its 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 economic activity.

For January, more upbeat assessments of current conditions pushed the present situation component of the index up nearly four points to 79.1.

The proportion of consumers who described business conditions as “good” rose 1.3 points to 21.5 percent. The share of those who called conditions “bad” fell a four-tenths of a point to 22.8 percent.

The proportion of consumers who called jobs “plentiful” increased eight-tenths of a point to 12.7 percent, while the share of those who said jobs remain “hard to get” edged down three-tenths of a point to 32.6 percent.

A more upbeat outlook pushed the expectations component of the index up nearly two points to 81.8.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months held steady at 17.4 percent. The proportion of those who anticipate worsening conditions retreated nearly two points to 12.1 percent.

The share of those who expect more jobs to become available in coming months fell almost two points to 15.4 percent. But the proportion of those forecasting fewer jobs fell more than a point to 18.3 percent.

While the share of consumers who expect their incomes to increase rose nearly two points to 15.8 percent, the proportion of those who expect to earn less money fell seven-tenths of a point to 13.6 percent.