Index: Consumers “cautiously optimistic”

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has edged down on less upbeat expectations for business and labor conditions.

The Conference Board reported its Consumer Confidence Index slipped a tenth of a point to 97.3 for July. While consumers were more optimistic about current conditions, they were more cautious about what could be in store in coming months.

Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, described consumers as “cautiously optimistic” about growth and said the readings suggest the U.S. economy will continue to expand at a moderate pace.

The business research and membership association bases the index on the results of monthly household surveys. Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity.

For June, more positive assessments of current business and labor conditions pushed up the present situation component of the index 1.7 points to 118.3.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the index was based who described business conditions as “good” rose 1.3 points to 28.1 percent. The share of consumers who called business conditions “bad” also rose, but less at seven-tenths of a point to 19 percent.

The proportion of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” edged down two-tenths of a point to 23 percent. But the share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” also decreased — 1.4 points to 22.3 percent.

A less upbeat outlook pulled down the expectations component of the index 1.3 points to 83.3.

The share of consumers who said they expect business conditions to improve over the next six months fell seven-tenths of a point to 15.9 percent. The proportion of those who anticipate worsening conditions rose 1.1 points to 12.3 percent.

The share of consumers who expect more jobs to become available in coming months held steady at 14 percent. The proportion of those who expect there will be fewer jobs retreated seven-tenths of a point to 17 percent.

While 16.6 percent of  consumers expect their incomes to increase, down 1.4 points, 10.8 percent anticipate lower incomes, down a half point.