Index: consumers shaken, not stirred

An up and down measure of consumer confidence is down again on more pessimistic assessments of present and future business and labor conditions.
The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) dropped more than five points in May to 60.8. The index has seesawed between gains and losses since February, but now stands at its lowest level since January.
“Consumers are considerably more apprehensive about future business and labor market conditions as well as their income prospects,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Inflation concerns, which had eased last month, have picked up once again. On the other hand, consumers’ assessments of current conditions declined only slightly, suggesting no significant deterioration in the pace of growth.”
The Conference Board, a business research and networking group, bases the CCI on the results of monthly surveys conducted by the Nielsen Co. Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of economic activity in the country.
For May, assessments of current conditions pushed down the Present Situation Index almost a point to 39.3.
The share of consumers responding to the survey who characterized business conditions as “good” fell nearly a point to 14.6 percent, while the proportion of those who said conditions are “bad” rose more than a point to 37.1 percent.
The share of consumers who described jobs as “plentiful” rose five-tenths of 5.6 percent, but the proportion of those who said jobs are “hard to get” rose 1.5 points to 43.9 percent.
The outlook for the next six months turned pessimistic in May, driving the Expectations Index down eight points to 75.2.
The proportion of consumers who expect business conditions to improve fell more than two points to 17 percent. The share of those anticipating worsening conditions rose 1.5 points to 15.5 percent.
The proportion of consumers who expect more jobs in the months ahead fell nearly two points to 15.9 percent, while the share of those who believe fewer jobs will become available rose more than two points to 20.8 percent.
The proportion of consumers who expect their incomes to increase fell more than two points to 14.8 percent.