Index: Consumers slightly less confident, but still “cautiously optimistic”

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has inched downward, but continues to reflect cautious optimism business and labor conditions are improving.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) slipped three-tenths of a point to 69.2 in April. The decline was the second in as many months for the CCI, although the losses have been small.

“As was the case last month, the slight dip was caused by a moderation in consumers’ short-term outlook, while their assessment of current conditions continued to improve. Overall, consumers are more upbeat about the state of the economy, but they remain cautiously optimistic,”

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.

More optimistic assessments of current business and labor conditions pushed up the present situation component of the CCI 1.5 points to 51.4.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the April CCI was based who described business conditions as “good” rose a point to 15.3 percent. The share of consumers who characterized businesses conditions as “bad” edged up three-tenths of a point to 33.5 percent.

The proportion of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” fell six-tenths of a point to 8.4 percent. But the share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” declined more — 3.2 points to 37.5 percent.

Consumers were slightly less upbeat in their outlook for the near term, pulling down the expectations component of the CCI 1.4 points to 81.1.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months slipped five-tenths of a point to 18.8 percent. The proportion of those who anticipate conditions will worsen advanced five-tenths of a point to 14.2 percent.

The share of consumers who believe more jobs will become available in coming months dipped five-tenths of a point to 16.9 percent. However, the proportion of those who expect fewer jobs will become available also fell five-tenths of a point — to 18 percent.

Meanwhile, 14 percent of consumers expect their incomes to increase, down 1.5 points from last month.